Good things come to those who wait. And boy have we waited a long time for Panasonic to show serious progress on its Ku-band-based connectivity service, eXConnect. Well, it appears the wait is over.
Flight sister publication ATI is reporting this morning that Panasonic this fall plans to launch eXConnect with no fewer than five initial customers, and that these customers have also signed on for Panasonic's eXPhone onboard mobile phone service offered in partnership with AeroMobile (is that the same five we reported about here?).
First announced three years ago, the new Panasonic service will be rolled out initially on the North Atlantic, with Asia and South America, the South Pacific and Africa following a few months later.
The launch will come at least 12 months later than originally planned, following a protracted antenna selection process, writes Graham Dunn, noting that the antenna has been the biggest challenge (and we've followed the story here).
But the EMS Technologies/Starling antenna in test now is proving to be very good, says Panasonic.
The IFE giant is promising generous data bandwidth to and from the aircraft - 30-50Mbit/sec from the satellite, 1.5Mbit/sec in the opposite direction.
Significantly, it also estimates that its cost per bit will be a quarter that of SwiftBroadband, the Inmarsat L-band service.
Panasonic faces a number of key milestones in the next few months. It needs the regulatory approval of each the countries that will be overflown by eXconnect-equipped aircraft. Thus far it has about a hundred national approvals.
So who are these customers? For that, we may have to wait.