In-Flight, Globalstar, Qualcomm Plan Internet Service for Planes

In-Flight is a joint venture between News Corp. and Rockwell Collins.
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The Internet will take to the clouds early next year.

Los Angeles-based

In-Flight Network

, a maker of airline entertainment systems which is a joint venture between

News Corp.

(NWS) - Get Report

and

Rockwell Collins

(ROK) - Get Report

, announced Wednesday that it partnered with

Globalstar

(GSTRF)

and

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

to bring broadband Internet access to airline travelers. Globalstar, based in Bermuda, and Qualcomm, based in San Diego, began developing the technology earlier this year, and in the last two weeks tested a prototype in flights across North America.

"It was done very, very quickly" said Mac Jeffery, a spokesperson for Globalstar. "It worked brilliantly."

Although pricing has not been established, don't expect it to be similar to inflight telephones, which usually charge exorbitant rates. The aim is to provide low-cost access.

"The goal is to completely mirror how it works on the ground," said Jeff Wales, the chief executive of In-Flight Network, in an interview. The target audience is well-traveled business people, who would be able to plug their laptops into an outlet at their seat and access the same services they use on the ground. "This is literally a breakthrough," he said.

In-Flight Network plans to offer lab demonstrations of the Internet and email service to aviation and airline industry representatives in mid-July.

Wednesday's announcement follows on the heels of similar plans by

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

to bring Internet access to its planes. Dubbed

Boeing Connexion

and announced in April, the company also hopes to launch its inflight Internet system sometime next year. Boeing, based in Seattle, partnered with

CNN

,

Loral

,

Alenia

,

Matsushita

,

Mitsubishi

and

CNBC

.

Boeing projects the business of supplying Internet access to airline passengers to reach $70 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. Boeing's system is already available for private jets, and will be installed on commercial airlines in late 2001. Initially, only North American flights will be eligible to offer Boeing's service.

In afternoon trading Wednesday, Globalstar's stock was up 17%, or 1 5/32, at 8 1/16, while Qualcomm was up 4 1/16, or 6%, at 67.