Boeing has announced that Lufthansa will be the first international customer for Connexion by Boeing, the first true, high-speed airborne Internet service.

The companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will eventually see the breakthrough broadband system installed on Lufthansa's entire intercontinental fleet. The initial installation will be aboard a Boeing 747-200, to be used on a three-month development trial to evaluate the system in a real-life situation.

Once the trial has been completed successfully, Lufthansa will install the system on a further 80 long-haul aircraft, giving all passengers internet access on their laptop computers or PDA via an Ethernet connection.


Scott Carson, Connexion by Boeing president, says: "We can't imagine a finer launch partner than Lufthansa. The European market is a critical part of our efforts to bring breakthrough communications services to the global marketplace.

"Working together with our international and domestic airline partners, we are developing the critical market mass needed to effectively support and enable a launch to make these services readily available."

Speaking at a press conference, Lufthansa's Wolfgang Mayrhuber said that his airline will do whatever the customer demands, keeping them informed and educated.

"We want them to be able to do the things they are used to - they deserve to be able to use the Internet in the air just as they use it on the ground," he says.

He adds that the three-month trial is to reassure Lufthansa that the system will work as well in the air as it does in the laboratory.

Under the agreement, Boeing will provide the phased-array antenna and distribution system for each aircraft.


Boeing is leasing Ku-band transponders from undisclosed suppliers to provide a potential 20Mbps download channel. Licences for both the transmission and receive frequencies are actively being sought. Connexion will initially offer a maximum 5Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload bandwidth - the other potential 15Mbps being available for "future applications".

Once distributed to each Internet connection in use, each passenger is predicted to have the equivalent of a 56kbps connection ¡ roughly the same as a standard telephone modem connection.

Costs are likely to be "the same as a mobile telephone call", although Lufthansa has not yet decided how to charge for the system. A subscription service, either by way of a corporate or Internet-based account, is one option being considered.

Boeing is currently planning to use 11 Ku-band satellite transponders across North America, with a further 13 across the Atlantic. Additional transponders will be leased as the service expands.

The service will initially provide Internet and e-mail access, although live TV has not been ruled out. Scott Carson says: "In the US it makes sense to have live TV onboard an aircraft, but in Europe and Asia I am personally doubtful as to the demand.


"News and sport might be interesting, but not films - language differences make it difficult. But technically we could do it," he adds.

The Connexion equipment will add about 227kg (500lb) to the overall weight of the aircraft and the modifications needed are said to be "minimal". This latest announcement with Lufthansa builds on Boeing's recent agreements with US airlines, American, Delta and United. Carson is keen to point out that Lufthansa is a true launch customer and not an equity partner in Connexion by Boeing. The recent letter of intent signed with American, Delta and United Airlines aims to "pursue forming a new global business venture". All three airlines will have an equity stake, with Boeing serving as major shareholder.

Source: Flight Daily News