Big bandwidth for big boys’ toys

Panasonic Avionics likes to do things BIG. That’s why the in-flight entertainment and communications (IFEC) giant, which is bringing its eXConnect Ku-band connectivity solution to market, is offering business jet operators a special eXTraBandwidth package, which “provides a tiered offering of guaranteed, consistent bandwidth for high quality communications, such as dedicated voice, video conferencing and other bandwidth-critical applications”.
 
I recently spoke to Panasonic vice-president, global communications services David Bruner  about the firm’s eXTraBandwidth offering. No, I didn’t ask him who came up with this peculiar combination of upper and lower case letters for eXTraBandwidth. Next time.
 
Here is Bruner in his own (gently paraphrased) words:

It’s typical in the private aviation business for operators to buy certain programmes that give them a certain amount of minutes or megabits per second and if they use more, they pay a higher fee.

But what’s different with eXTraBandwidth is, if for example you were to do a lot of voice calls or video conferencing and you need higher bandwidth and very consistent throughput and you can’t afford to drop the connection, we can offer this service whereby you tell us how much bandwidth you want and we guarantee that amount of service to you while you’re flying.

For that type of business jet market, where time is precious, owners/operators are willing to pay a significant amount of money for the best services. Yet they haven’t ever been able to get really good communications services. It has never really matched up to the office experience.

Some folks are using older Inmarsat systems, and we’re thinking they’d go to SwiftBroadband (SBB), but we can offer the same capital cost to the airplane and significantly less service costs, and corporate executives can now do anything they could do in their office as they could on the plane.

They can use their own cell phones on board the aircraft, or use phones on the aircraft. There are all different kinds of options. They can have installed a VoIP handset that’s the airplane phone plus use their own phone. The eXTraBandwidth offering is for anything they want to do on the aircraft.

An operator could say – we want to lock in two or three megabits/second to our airplane every time we fly and we want that service guaranteed. That is really like having a DSL line to the airplane and that is something that has never before been offered to the marketplace.

Most people will still go for the regular plans because they find out the [basic eXConnect] service is excellent, but you’ll have a few people – royalty and heads of state – that will really want this eXTraBandwidth when they fly.

Security is really important in this market. We have the ability to just present [governments] with a pipe and they can put whatever encryption they want on the airplane. This can really give them the comfort level they want to use the communication line for any kind of communication they want to and not worry about the privacy or that kind of stuff.

Side note -  Connexion by Boeing’s service is understood to continue to fly on a variety of government aircraft, including Air Force One. I wonder if Obama would like some eXTraBandwidth.

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