In-flight connectivity update

For those of you waiting with bated breath for the launch of in-flight broadband connectivity, I’ve got some interesting news to report. Panasonic Avionics has revealed it is in the process of finalizing contracts with key partners for its eXConnect broadband system, and will shortly announce “a supplier or suppliers” for the ever-important antenna. Launch customers for the Ku-band offering could be unveiled in about 60 days.





Panasonic previously picked Israel‘s Starling as a non-exclusive antenna partner in its satellite-based connectivity system, but requested performance improvements to the firm’s fuselage-mounted Mijet antenna as well as from other would-be suppliers. Starling later entered a partnership with EMS Technologies to produce a new ultra-fast, ultra-lightweight (45lb/20kg) Ku-band airborne antenna system that will be targeted at the US commercial airline market. It is not yet clear if the EMS/Starling antenna being now touted has remedied Panasonic‘s concerns.


Panasonic Avionics director of strategic product marketing David Bruner says: “The aircraft antenna is a really big challenge. A lot of them [suppliers] thought they had a pretty good mousetrap, but all needed redesigned.” Selecting the best antenna is a key step before customers are willing to move forward, he adds.


Separately, Aircell is quickly making headway to bring its air-to-ground connectivity solution to market. This blog recently reported that WiFi hotspot aggregator Boingo, which previously listed now-defunct Connexion by Boeing as one of its roaming partners, sees Aircell et al “as another major hotspot provider to work to expand the Boingo network”.


One week lalter, iPass announced a roaming partner agreement with Aircell that will allow iPass enterprise users or individual subscribers to connect over Aircell hotspots on commercial aircraft in flight. The news marked Aircell’s first roaming partner agreement.


Asked whether Boingo will be next, Aircell says it is in discussions with numerous partners, and is open to the idea of beginning additional discussions. To date, Aircell has formally announced the following partnerships around the commercial ATG Gogo system: Aricent; Formation; generationE Technologies; and Martin Dawes Systems.


(Photo above from Panasonic’s eXConnect web page)

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