Boeing is remaining tight-lipped about when it will make a decision about providing a standard in-flight connectivity offering for the delayed 787 twinjet.

However, the airframer is poised to make AeroMobile/Panasonic Avionics' 'eXPhone' cellular connectivity solution line-fit offerable to customers, with Boeing 777 operator V Australia slated to launch the service.

"We are studying connectivity but it has been Boeing's policy not to comment on studies that we have ongoing, so a question along the lines of the timing of completion of the study is not something that we'd comment on," director, 787 interiors Tom Galantowicz told ATI during a recent press tour of Boeing's third 787 testbed, ZA003, in Everett, Washington.

Galantowicz confirmed that ZA003, which will support cabin interiors testing, is not fitted with systems to support in-flight connectivity.

He declined to say if Boeing will equip a separate test aircraft, such as ZA006, with passenger connectivity, noting: "Really, at this point, in terms of where we're at with the study and where we might put test equipment, it's pretty premature to comment where we might be able to incorporate some of that."

Last year Boeing quietly issued a request for information for an in-flight connectivity solution for its 787 based on SwiftBroadband (SBB) - the same Inmarsat L-band satellite service that is acting as the entry point to connectivity for rival Airbus's long-haul aircraft.

In the RFI document Boeing specifically sought information about an SBB-supported satcom interface and on-board mobile telephony system (OMTS) and indicated that its preferred solution for installation of an OMTS "is to have it integrated" with the IFE system.

While Boeing continues to study its connectivity options for the 787 and other types, V Australia is readying to become the first airline to offer IFE integrated with cellular deployment when it launches eXPhone on its 777s in the second quarter.

V Australia's four 777s, which are equipped with Panasonic eX2 IFE platforms, have had full eXPhone provisions installed by Boeing from the factory (trays, wiring, cct breakers and leaky feeder cable), according to AeroMobile, a subsidiary of Norway-based telecommunications giant Telenor.

The carrier's fifth, sixth and seventh 777s will be fully type certified by Boeing from the factory. The fifth aircraft is scheduled to be delivered in the fourth quarter of this year, says AeroMobile.

Various regulatory approvals are required to operate cellular services on Australian registered aircraft.

"AeroMobile has been working closely with the Australian authorities and its stakeholders to conclude the necessary operational frameworks. This work has resulted in some level of public consultation regarding a revised regulatory class licensing regime, as led by the ACMA [Australian Communications and Media Authority]," says the firm.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news