• German flag-carrier adds inflight mobile network to its connectivity product

London, UK | February 6, 2014– Europe’s largest airline, Lufthansa, has launched its inflight mobile phone service with AeroMobile, allowing passengers to use their own mobile devices to text and browse online at 30,000 feet via Lufthansa FlyNet.

With eight aircraft already in service, the German flag-carrier has confirmed it will roll out mobile connectivity across its entire long-haul fleet of over 100 aircraft this year.

The AeroMobile network, which allows passengers to roam just as they would abroad, is already available across selected A330s in the Lufthansa fleet, flying from Munich and Frankfurt to North America and the Middle East.

The roll out means that this year, customers flying on any of Lufthansa’s long-haul routes will be able to stay connected using their personal mobile devices inflight.

AeroMobile has roaming agreements with more than 240 mobile phone operators worldwide, including German networks T-Mobile, Vodafone, e-Plus and O2 Germany, as well as AT&T and T-Mobile in the USA and EE, O2, Vodafone and Three in the UK.

The service is simple to use; passengers simply turn on their mobile device to connect to the network, and are billed directly by their mobile operator. Prices are typically similar to ‘rest of world’ terrestrial roaming rates.

“It’s great news that Lufthansa will be rolling out AeroMobile connectivity on their entire fleet this year; we know that passengers are keen to keep their mobile phones on inflight and Lufthansa clearly recognises the value of offering this service,” said Kevin Rogers, CEO of AeroMobile.

“The service will give travellers the flexibility to use their mobile devices as much or as little as they like during a flight, whether it’s to send an SMS to a loved one, keep on top of emails or update their Facebook status,” continued Rogers.

Inflight connectivity took a giant international step today when Panasonic, T-Mobile and others demonstrated a new Ku Band connectivity service on a Lufthansa B747, during a flight to New York. The service is dubbed FlyNet. Here is part of the news release from Panasonic:

“Panasonic, the world leader in state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment and communication (IFEC) systems, today announced that its Global Communications Suite enables Lufthansa’s newly re-launched FlyNet broadband Internet service. Using the Global Communications Suite’s eXConnect system, FlyNet will provide passengers with in- flight broadband connectivity on Lufthansa’s commercial intercontinental flights, beginning December 1st on North-Atlantic routes. The service was demonstrated earlier today on an international flight traveling from Frankfurt, Germany to New York, U.S.A.”

Significant here is the “long march” both Panasonic executives, David Bruner (VP) and Paul Margis (CEO) have been through to bring this product to market. Suffice it to say, these folks (and the whole team for that matter) staked their reputations on connectivity and a desire to help disconnected travelers. IFExpress has become enthusiastic supporters of their cause… one that we have been watching for some 7 years now.

“We are very excited to announce that our Global Communications Suite is operational, initially on transatlantic flights offered by Lufthansa, our launch customer,” said Paul Margis, Chief Executive Officer for Panasonic Avionics Corporation. “We are honored to be part of Lufthansa’s FlyNet re-launch, and we believe that our Global Communications Suite will play a key role in helping them deliver their industry-leading in-flight broadband Internet service.”

Here are a series of questions we asked Panasonic about FlyNet:

Q. What number of a/c are installed today? Which fleet will get installation hardware?

A. “All of the long-range fleet – approximately 100 aircraft will be installed.  Approximately 12 aircraft are installed; however, initially six will be used to start service with others being added each week.”

Q. We understand some earlier CBB (Connexion By Boeing) hardware was used on a limited number of aircraft and integrated into your solution.

A. “The key for Lufthansa was taking advantage of the labor hours and engineering design effort that was expended to put the CBB system on years ago.  Using the existing equipment will allow LH to get more aircraft operating with broadband much sooner.  An airline really needs a large proportion of the fleet installed to effectively market the service.”

Q. What is final fleet size for this “version”? 

A. “Approximately 75 to 80 aircraft will use the previous antenna system and approximately 20 to 25 aircraft will be installed with the new PAC antenna.  Over time as the Melco antennas age they will be replaced with Panasonic antennas.”

Q. What is the service deployment rate?

A. “LH has many aircraft scheduled for heavy maintenance over this coming winter which will be retrofitted.  An exact installation number is not known at this time however a majority of the fleet will be installed.”

Q. Which Ku Satcoms are involved… coverage where… ?

A. “Initial service is from Europe to North America.  4 satellites provide this coverage.  Over the next few months all satellites will be turned on for a total of 14.”

Q. I assume testing has been ongoing…. how long and what kind of results?

A. “There have been lots of challenges to overcome in reaching the point of stability we are at now which allows us to roll out the service.  That is not to say we are completely done as there is always more improvement that we can make as we get more data from usage inflight.”

Q. What is the data delivery rate to the passenger?

A. “Right now we are launching with 5 to 10 MBps per region and are adding more capacity as more aircraft are installed. This scalability of the bandwidth by region is a new enhancement that we have that CBB did not.  It is very important in helping to manage the network costs as the fleet is being installed.”

Q. What data rate is available per plane?

A.”The answer is “it depends”.  Each aircraft can use all of the bandwidth in a region; however, the more aircraft in a region they will share the bandwidth. now aircraft don’t receive a specified allotment – they receive as much as they ask for or whatever is available. It is a different concept that allows better network utilization.”

Q. Typically, what is the coverage per spot beam?

A. “Each satellite footprint is different.  Most were designed for VSAT usage on land.  There are now a few satellites that were designed for oceanic coverage for maritime and aeronautical usage.”

Q. Any licensing issues currently?

A. “Not really, approximately 200 countries worldwide and the tough countries coming online very soon.”

Q. Will the LH routes include USA… and if so, which cities?

A. “Yes, North America is the first region for LH.  Service will start with FRA-JFK, then Detroit then Atlanta with other markets coming online quickly as more aircraft are installed.”

Q. Any Start-up deals for passengers?

A. “Yes, complimentary service until February 1!”

We also note the Deutch Telekom (parent of T-Mobile) news release states: “All Telekom mobile communications customers can use the HotSpot under their cell phone contracts. They have to pay a fee of EUR 1.80 ($2.33) for every 10 minutes for FlyNet. In order to mark the launch of FlyNet, access for all passengers is free of charge until the end of January 2011. After the introductory period, passengers can register for the service using their credit card, via another roaming partner, or by redeeming Award Miles from their Miles & More account. The standard credit card offer costs EUR 10.95 ($14.33) for one hour, and EUR 19.95 ($25.93) for 24 hours. Customers can purchase the service on-board, and continue to use it in Lufthansa lounges after the flight.”

Q. We assume Wi-Fi is connection method… any other?

A. “Wi-FI with GSM to be added in 1Q11.”

We asked an onboard passenger about the service and she emphatically replied, “It works great.” That is good enough for us. Let IFExpress know about your experience with FlyNet, we will report back!

IFExpress would also like to personally thank the Panasonic team for taking the time to answer our questions during the flight…and, we want our readers to know that the Q & A data in this article was sent in real time FROM THE PLANE! Nice work Panasonic!

Remember the old saying, “Hardware is easy, Software is hard!?” Well it certainly is true in Panasonic’s case. They kindly provided this block diagram of ‘how the system works & plays together’ and it certainly explains why the company took time and pains to make sure all connectivity entities played well together. You will note that Panasonic monitors and compares the billing engines in what is most probably a QA check. Also. note that the company will eventually have to support many airlines and many flying clients…thus a data center and Network Operations Center.”

Editor’s Note: Later this week, WIN is rolling out a a connectivity-related edition that looks to be very tasty. Try to get your hands on one and use it as a reference. Good Stuff!

Panasonic & Lufthansa Are Offering Broadband Internet Access On Long-Haul Routes – Diverse Billing Options With Service Provider Deutsche Telekom – Introductory Offer: Free Surfing Until The End Of January 2011

November 30, 2011 — Lufthansa passengers travelling on long-haul flights can now once again enjoy the full freedom of online communication. Together with its long-standing partners Panasonic Avionics Corporation and Deutsche Telekom. Lufthansa will be the first airline to offer its customers broadband Internet access on intercontinental routes. The service, which will initially be provided on selected North Atlantic routes, will be available on nearly the entire Lufthansa intercontinental network by the end of 2011. “Inflight Internet on board our longhaul flights is an innovation in the interests of our customers,” says Thierry Antinori, member of the Lufthansa German Airlines Board. “FlyNet complements the consistent communications service offering for Lufthansa customers at all points of the travel chain. It provides them with completely new and unique opportunities to spend their time on board or while waiting for connecting flights.”

The extremely fast, high-performance inflight Internet service gives passengers with a WLAN-enabled laptop or smartphone unlimited online access. Thanks to the high bandwidth, emails – including those with large file attachments – can be sent and received without any time delay. Business travellers can also access their company’s Virtual Private Network (VPN). In spring 2011, inflight data communication should also be possible using the mobile phone standards GSM and GPRS. In addition to the wireless Internet (WLAN) service, Lufthansa customers will then be able to use their mobile phones to send and receive SMS text messages and transfer data with smart phones such as the iPhone or PDAs such as BlackBerry.

FlyNet is incredibly easy to use. Passengers — no matter where they are sitting on the aircraft – can logon to the Internet with any WLAN-enabled device, just as at any public hotspot, or in the near future set up a connection with a GSM/GPRS-enabled device. After opening the browser, they can automatically access the exclusive, free Lufthansa FlyNet portal, where they will find constantly updated news about economics, politics, sports and entertainment. Via this portal they can access the Internet service provided by Deutsche Telekom, which is to be paid from February 2011 on. Service provider information detailing the various billing options is available on this portal as well, including payment via credit card, via integrated roaming partners or by redeeming Miles & More award miles. The price for one hour’s online access is 10.95 euros or 3,500 miles, while the 24-hour flat rate is 19.95 euros or 7,000 miles. Under the 24-hour flat rate agreement, passengers can access the Internet on all Lufthansa connecting flights equipped with a hotspot during the period of validity as well as after the flight in Lufthansa lounges. Thanks to the introductory FlyNet offer, inflight Internet access will be available for free on FlyNet-equipped aircraft until January 31, 2011.

Lufthansa operated the world’s first scheduled flight with broadband Internet access on 15 January 2003. From May 2004 until the end of 2006, when Lufthansa’s then-partner Connexion by Boeing discontinued the service, wireless broadband Internet enjoyed increasing popularity. The technology also proved very reliable. By the end of 2006, some 69 of Lufthansa’s long-range aircraft were equipped with FlyNet, making the Lufthansa fleet the largest Internet-enabled long-haul fleet in the world, with about 30,000 users per month.

LAKE FOREST, California – November 30, 2010 – Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic), the world leader in state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment and communication (IFEC) systems, today announced that its Global Communications Suite enables Lufthansa’s newly re-launched FlyNet broadband internet service. Using the Global Communications Suite’s eXConnect system, FlyNet will provide passengers with in-flight broadband connectivity on Lufthansa’s commercial intercontinental flights, beginning December 1st on North-Atlantic routes. The service was demonstrated earlier today on an international flight traveling from Frankfurt, Germany to New York, U.S.A.

“We are very excited to announce that our Global Communications Suite is operational, initially on transatlantic flights offered by Lufthansa, our launch customer,” said Paul Margis, Chief Executive Officer for Panasonic Avionics Corporation. “We are honored to be part of Lufthansa’s FlyNet re-launch, and we believe that our Global Communications Suite will play a key role in helping them deliver their industry-leading in-flight broadband internet service.”

“Broadband Internet on board our long-haul flights is an innovation in the interests of our customers,” said Thierry Antinori, a member of the Lufthansa German Airlines Board. “With Panasonic as our technology partner, we can now again offer passengers a fast, state-of-the-art, broadband service, just like they would expect in a hotel or in a public hotspot – but at 30,000 feet.”

Panasonic’s Global Communications Suite is comprised of three main product offerings – eXConnect, eXPhone, and eXTV. eXConnect provides two-way broadband connectivity to an aircraft. It supports a wide range of passenger and crew applications, including Internet access offered in cooperation with Deutsche Telekom, voice, data, and the ability to monitor and transmit airline operational data in real time. The company’s eXPhone product, offered in collaboration with AeroMobile’s GSM mobile phone service, allows passengers to use their mobile phones, smart phones and BlackBerry® devices onboard to make voice calls if selected by the airline, send SMS text messages or use GPRS services such as email and Internet access. Panasonic’s eXTV television network delivers high-quality, live television to passengers during their flight. It provides live, uninterrupted programming to aircraft flying all over the world, even over oceans. The service offers several core channels as well as regional channels.

With eXConnect, FlyNet lets passengers use their own electronic and communication devices, such as laptops, smart phones and PDAs, to wirelessly connect to the internet. Passengers will be able to browse the internet; access social media sites; explore the free Lufthansa FlyNet portal for the latest news on politics, economics, sports and entertainment; connect to VPNs to send/receive emails and attachments; and instantly share their location via Facebook and Twitter.