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The news that Boeing is to scrap its Connexion in-flight Internet access service will surprise many people. The fact that it had an in-flight Internet access service will surprise many more. Unless you were a business traveler, flying in Asia where the service was most prevalent, and then one who really could not get by without email and the web for a couple of hours, it simply would not have found your radar.

Anyway, it was something of a non-starter at anything from $10 for 30 minutes upwards. Actually, that is not quite true: if you flew by German carrier Lufthansa, you could get the service free. This is where it all went wrong, as far as I am concerned. If offered as a value added service, bringing a truly useful service to the masses as part of the airfare, then in-flight Internet could have been a flyaway success. The fact that the FAA passed the cost of both testing and approving the necessary wireless devices onto the individual carriers pretty much guaranteed that it was never going to be universally free.

Launched in 2001 it simply never made the kind of impact it could have done. Between the pricing issue (so much for value), the fact that you felt lucky to get a consistent 128k connection (so much for high speed) and the fact that the 9/11 attacks happened just a couple of months after it started (so much for timing) it was a minor miracle that it has lasted this long.

Boeing stands to lose, according to analysts, as much as $320 million by closing the scheme down, but has not actually announced when it will close. This makes the conspiracy theorist in me stand to attention. More so when the new Boeing 787 design is to be prewired for WiFi and Internet access. Is this just some kind of lopsided PR campaign to stir up interest in an otherwise forgotten service? Are there plans afoot to launch a new and improved system? What the heck, I am happy to officially start a rumor that the Google SkyNet will be opening for service within the next couple of years though. And to be honest, it would not surprise me in the least if they did just that.

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Boeing will close down its service, at the moment it's loosing them a lot of money to keep it running.
Most likely the first step will be to stop marketing it, and refuse tenders for new potential customers.
Next step will than be a move to not renew contracts with existing customers.
Finally maybe the last few customers with really longterm contract may have to be bought out.

Hotwiring the 787 for wireless networking is a good move in itself. Nothing prevents someone else from starting a similar service in the future when the economics are more favourable, and having aircraft ready to accept such a service will than be a good move.
It also allows for in-flight LAN parties and videoconferencing between people on board the aircraft, which could be sold as an added service by the airlines in the way of rental fees for the required wireless network cards and access codes.

I suspect that there will something of a flurry of activity from third parties looking to enter the in-air ISP business and fill the void as it were. While Boeing might not have been able to make it profitable, there is a niche business market that still wants it and, one assumes, is willing to pay for it. Take the consumer out of the loop and you can charge a lot more, of course.

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