PHIL CONDIT, CHIEF executive of Boeing International, spends 600 hours a year in the air - about 75 working days. Conveniently, the plane in which he flies has Internet access. He can e-mail thousands of employees from 40,000 feet. That is what you get when you are the top dog at the biggest aerospace company on earth. Business travellers may be interested to know that such services will be commercially available within months. Boeing's high-speed data communication service, to be called Connexion by Boeing, will use a space-based network to deliver information via broadband in real time. System installations should begin late next year. 'Soon passengers will be able to watch a live soccer match or e-mail family or shop online or keep an eye on their stocks. The airline will begin to look like your home or office and the experience of travel will change,' Mr Condit said. European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is also working on a range of Internet-based inflight communication services. Airbus In-flight Information Services will be available on the new A340-600 from the first half of 2002. While manufacturers rush to offer live Internet access on their planes, the airlines are testing various prototypes. Cathay Pacific was the first airline to announce a fleetwide Intranet service, in conjunction with Seattle-based company Tenzing, which will be available from the second quarter of next year. Patrick Garrett, a Cathay Pacific corporate communications manager, said: 'Many airlines are talking about it but have done nothing yet. We are well progressed with the plan. We tested the system last month on a flight from Seoul to Hong Kong. We sent an e-mail and colour digital pictures to our chief executive's desk and received a reply straight away.' Intranet systems use an onboard server which communicates with one on the ground. Information, such as e-mail, stock quotes and breaking news, will be sent to and from the plane in bursts. The server compresses e-mail and encrypts it so it cannot be read or intercepted in transit, an issue of concern for companies exchanging private information with executives. Sending e-mail in 'packets' also significantly reduces the cost. 'It has always been possible to use an air-phone to connect to the Internet. Our intranet system stores massive amounts of cached Web content on a server, which is distributed around the aircraft on Firewire networks. Users connect their laptops via a USB [universal serial bus] port. This means most people will be able to surf the Web in the air faster than they do at home with a 56k[bps] modem and a phone line,' Mr Garrett said. Cathay's e-mail service will be available on first and business class and some economy class seats. It will include e-commerce applications. The airline is also extending its laptop power supply to the entire cabin. Belinda Bradford, managing director at Creative Airspace, a Hong Kong-based start-up which delivers software, Web design and content solutions for inflight intranets, said: 'To be unconnected for 13 hours can be expensive from a business perspective.' Ms Bradford believes new systems being tested are just the beginning of a sea change in the industry. 'When you travel, time is really important,' she said. 'This technology removes that as being a chronic problem. It will bring an enormous array of choice and convenience. Intranet systems will mirror the Web and allow airlines to target information to their passengers.' Industry players insist the information available will not be all stock quotes and financial news. 'If you travel a few times a week as part of your job, you will be delighted not to have to watch the same movie each time. And if you need to work or trade shares on a 13-hour flight to London, the choice will be yours,' Ms Bradford said. John Kiehnau, managing director at Emphasis Custom Media, whose company produces inflight magazines for six airlines, said: 'The world has about 200 airlines. 'We expect around 20 will become known for the kind of service that will appeal to the frequent business flier.'