Panasonic poised to reveal launch customer for broad connectivity suite

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In-flight entertainment system maker Panasonic Avionics is in advanced discussions with a launch customer for its portfolio of airborne broadband data communications, mobile phone services and live television.

The airline "wants a full global suite of services" including Panasonic's eXConnect high-speed connectivity solution, its eXPhone offering that supports AeroMobile's mobile phone service and eXTV television with "global coverage of those services", reveals Panasonic. It adds: "We expect to announce this customer soon."

The news follows Panasonic's revelation that it has contracted EMS Technologies' Defense & Space Systems Division (D&SS) to provide a Ku-band antenna to support its high-speed internet and new real-time television services. Called AURA-LE, the dual-panel antenna is being developed collaboratively by the two firms. Panasonic provided EMS D&SS with its specifications for the system.

Panasonic is now competing in the Ku-band in-flight connectivity sector with Row 44, which has already secured trial agreements with Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines, as well as ViaSat, which recently announced its intentions to enter the marketplace. Aircell and LiveTV, meanwhile, offer in-flight connectivity services based on air-to-ground links.

EMS is perhaps best known in the commercial sector for supplying antennas to JetBlue Airways subsidiary LiveTV's live television system, which is installed on the low-cost carrier as well as Frontier Airlines and WestJet.

Through its LiveTV association, EMS has more than 300 aircraft installed with its antennas, says EMS D&SS general manager David Smith.

Panasonic previously picked Israeli firm Starling as a non-exclusive antenna partner in eXConnect, but requested performance improvements to the firm's fuselage-mounted Mijet antenna. Last month EMS revealed that its AURA antenna portfolio is using Starling's CoMPA (Coherent Multi-Panel) flat panel technology.