Panasonic to test eXConnect on BBJ within weeks

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Flight testing of Panasonic Avionics' Ku-band satellite-based connectivity solution, eXConnect, will begin in a few weeks on a privately-owned Boeing Business Jet (BBJ).

The BBJ trial will go live in advance of Lufthansa's own testing of eXConnect. Lufthansa today confirmed its partnership with Panasonic to reinstate in-flight broadband on overseas flights. The carrier aims formally to offer the service around the middle of 2010 on 50-60 aircraft.

The BBJ on which eXConnect will be flight tested belongs to "a private customer" that is acquiring the solution, company vice-president global communications services David Bruner revealed last week at the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition.

He said Panasonic expects to announce "several eXConnect customers on the private side", such as BBJ and Airbus ACJ operators, during the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) annual meeting and convention next week in Orlando, Florida.

These operators are also keen to offer Panasonic's Airline Television Network, a proprietary broadcast TV distribution network that includes a selection of broadcast television channels specifically licensed by the firm for worldwide distribution to aircraft equipped with eXConnect.

Private jet operators "would like us to have more channels," reveals Bruner. But he also notes that TV "is hot among airlines again".

In addition to Lufthansa, Panasonic has secured eXConnect contracts with several as yet unnamed commercial carriers.