Lufthansa in mid- to late-August will make an announcement concerning its plan to reintroduce broadband connectivity on its overseas flights using the Connexion by Boeing (CBB) antennas still installed on those aircraft.
Speaking today at the WAEA single focus workshop in Everett, Lufthansa head of cabin interior and IFE Peter Lewalter confirmed the German operator is in "very, very close negotiations" with one of the Ku-band connectivity providers.
Although Lewalter does not mention Panasonic Avionics as the provider, readers of this blog know Lufthansa has been talking to the IFE giant, after opting out of exclusive talks with a teaming that comprised T-Mobile, ViaSat and others. ViaSat addressed the situation in the following article.
But back to Lewalter, whose speech this morning was killer (in a good way). He reveals Lufthansa plans to test a Ku-band solution on a test aircraft "early next year".
Because Lufthansa will use already-installed antenna on its aircraft, the carrier believes it will get the former CBB aircraft into service "very, very quickly".
"We are discussing a hybrid solution in order to come back pretty soon and it is our intent to have the remaining aircraft then also installed as quick as possible," says Lewalter.
Asked by Runway Girl if Lufthansa hopes to offer the Ku-band solution line-fit on its Airbus A380s, Lewalter said that as soon as negotiations with the service provider are completed, "we will start again our negotiations" with Airbus about that.
He believes Lufthansa's first A380 will not be outfitted with the Ku-band solution from the get-go, but has high hopes "that we can as soon as possible" have installations on ensuing A380s.
Fun key quote:
Due to the fact that Boeing is gone from Connexion by Boeing, "Airbus is a little more willing to do something."
But Lewalter's revelations didn't end there. He says Lufthansa is preparing a request for proposal to equip its narrowbody fleet with connectivity. The carrier is exploring various broadband options (ground based stations and satellite based), but admits that the landscape in Europe is different than in North America - where a dedicated air-to-ground infrastructure is in place (and used by US market leader Aircell).
The carrier is "very confident we have some way to move forward" with a decision on a broadband solution for its continental narrowbodies "sometime early next year".
Oh yes, and by the way, Lewalter thinks Ku-band can now succeed where CBB failed (for reasons we have discussed here - leased transponders, a need for fewer employees, and revenue from GSM connectivity for voice and non-voice data traffic, (to cite a few).
"We need in my opinion broadband in order to fulfil requirements of the future, and I also absolutely believe that this will be profitable," says the Lufthansa executive.