Lufthansa announcement would be “super”: OnAir CEO

The annual World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition is hotly anticipating Monday’s announcement that Lufthansa has partnered with Panasonic Avionics to reinstate in-flight broadband on its overseas flights, a partnership that was first reported here (for those with short-term memories, ahem).

Sources with knowledge of the situation say Lufthansa will announce the agreement on 12 October (okay, that’s a bit later than August).

There is also plenty of gab that T-Mobile – which had previously hoped to reignite Lufthansa’s Connexion service under a now-defunct partnership with ViaSat and others – will still be tapped by Lufthansa to play some sort of role.

One champion of Lufthansa’s forthcoming announcement is OnAir CEO Benoit Debains. Yes, that’s right, you read me correctly.

Why is Benoit excited? Because, in addition to offering high-speed Internet to passengers, Lufthansa will also be offering GSM/GPRS service and that will set the service standard request in Europe for Wi-Fi and GSM/GPRS.

“If the Lufthansa announcement occurs, it will put the product as a reference for GSM/GPRS service. So, super,” says Debains.

“It also shows that it’s not about Wi-Fi versus GSM – it’s both!”

I’d imagine passengers are also going to get damned used to using their cell phones in-flight over the transatlantic (and maybe they’ll realize how ridiculus it is to have to turn those same cell phones off once the aircraft hits US airspace).

Let the orders for GSM/GPRS over the Atlantic start rolling in!

I pointed out that Lufthansa intends to retrofit its Airbus A380s – the first of which is now flying - with Panasonic’s eXconnect, and that GSM/GPRS (via eXphone, Panasonic’s branding of the AeroMobile solution) will be run over the Ku-band pipe, not SwiftBroadband, which is OnAir’s current pipe of choice.

But Benoit had a quick retort: “Even with GSM/GPRS over Ku – you still need the leaky line!”

Ah yes, the leaky line. It’s the bane, or rather the bone, of GSM/GPRS’ existence. “A GSM/GPRS product is the most difficult to do,” notes Debains.

What is decidedly not difficult to do is to share a good time with Debains, and the OnAir crew, which snapped the following pic for moi. Merci! 

OnAir 004.jpg 

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