Turkish to offer in-flight Internet, mobile service on 20 widebodies

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Turkish Airlines has become the second publically-announced customer for Panasonic Avionics' global communications suite in a sweeping deal that will see the carrier bring Ku-band satellite-based in-flight high-speed Internet, mobile phone service and live television to a large portion of its long-haul fleet.

The Star Alliance member will offer Panasonic's so-called eXConnect, eXPhone and Airborne Television Network solutions on 12 new Boeing 777-300ERS and 10 new Airbus A330-300s beginning in the fourth quarter of this year.

The eXPhone solution is offered in partnership with Telenor subsidiary AeroMobile, which is in the process of equipping Emirates' entire fleet with mobile phone connectivity.

Pansonic's latest generation in-flight entertainment system, eX2, will also be fitted to Turkish Airlines' 777s and A330s under the contract announced 5 February.

Financial terms have not been disclosed. At present, it is also unclear how many Turkish Airlines deliveries will come line-fit with the Panasonic solutions and how many will require retrofits post-delivery.

"For the Boeing and Airbus aircraft, Turkish is working directly with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and we are supporting to provide a line-fit solution. However, given the delivery time frames for Turkish, it may be that a few of the Boeing [777] aircraft will have provisions installed and require a post delivery installation," a Panasonic spokeswoman reveals to ATI.

"With respect to the Airbus A330s, we expect that initial deliveries in fourth quarter of this year will be retrofits," she adds.

Panasonic last week announced an agreement with Airbus whereby the company's IFE and global communications suite is now offerable on the A350 XWB. It continues to work with Airbus and Boeing to receive line-fit offerability for its global communications suite on the airframers' other long-haul types.

Boeing, meanwhile, is studying various connectivity solutions as it ponders a standard offering for its 787 twinjet and 747-8 jumbo.

Turkish Airlines president and CEO says Panasonic's eX2 and global communications suite "will give us the ability tailor our passengers' experiences with live broadcast TV, Wi-Fi access for laptops and PDAs, as well as the use of mobile phones".

The carrier's selection of Panasonic's global communications suite follows an announcement last fall that Lufthansa will revive its onboard connectivity offering FlyNet under a deal with Panasonic that will also see the German carrier offer eXPhone to passengers.

Lufthansa previously offered high-speed Internet on overseas flights via Connexion by Boeing, which ceased commercial operations at the end of 2006.