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Vodafone has agreed to allow its mobile data customers to use Boeing's Connexion in-flight Wi-Fi service, the mobile phone network said last week.

The deal is essentially a classic roaming arrangement, with Connexion's airborne access points operating like any terrestrial hotspot to connect a Wi-Fi enabled notebook to the Internet. Vodafone offers a line of Mobile Connect data card products that provide 3G, WLAN and GPRS connectivity, along with its Wi-Fi equipped VPA III PocketPC phone.

Connexion access charges will be billed directly to the customers' Vodafone invoice. It isn't cheap: Connexion will charge $29.95 for long-haul flights - typically those taking six hours or more - $19.95 for 3-6 hour journeys and $14.95 for short hops. These flat-rate options provided unlimited access for the duration of the flight. For travellers requiring shorter periods online - which is pretty much anyone without one of those ridiculously expensive aircraft power adaptors - Connexion will offer a metered service costing $9.95 for the first 30 minutes and 25 cents a minute thereafter.

The network will offer Connexion connectivity on a trial basis later this month, but the two companies said they will enter into a "full agreement... following successful completion of [the] trials". They didn't, however, say when they envisage that will take place, or what criteria will be used to judge the success of the trial.

Vodafone did indicate, however, that the trial will focus on Lufthansa's long-haul flights from Europe that have Connexion on board. The German airline will this month add Munich-Miami to the WLAN route-list, joining Munich-Los Angeles, Frankfurt-Denver, Munich-Charlotte, Munich-Tehran, Munich-San Francisco and Munich-Tokyo.

Japan Airlines (JAL) will begin offering the service on its London-Tokyo run this month. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) will offer Wi-Fi on a number of Copenhagen-based flights. Singapore Airlines will add in-flight Wi-Fi to its Singapore-London route during Q1 2005. ®

Related stories

EU regulators probe mobile roaming charges
Vodafone launches Wi-Fi Pocket PC
Singapore Airlines plans in-flight live TV via Wi-Fi
Korean Air gives nod to Boeing's in-flight broadband
Boeing prices up in-flight Wi-Fi
Boeing to offer roaming via in-flight WLANs

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