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Panasonic looks for broadband jump start from Lufthansa

Panasonic Avionics believes it has the advantage of being able to learn from Connexion by Boeing's earlier attempt to provide in-flight broadband connectivity services after securing the latter's former lead customer Lufthansa as the first customer for its new eXconnect service.

In an eagerly awaited selection, Lufthansa has confirmed it has chosen the Panasonic solution to relaunch its on-board broadband internet service, FlyNet -nearly three years after Connexion by Boeing pulled the plug on its service.

While Connexion by Boeing ultimately failed to create the financial case to continue, Lufthansa and Panasonic both believe they are better positioned this time around to establish a sustainable business model.

"It's been a long time that Panasonic has been looking and working on the broadband product," saidPanasonic Avionics chief executive Paul Margis at the Frankfurt announcement. "Boeing did an excellent job in proving it could be done and one of the advantages we have is we are able to see what worked and what didn't.

"We are not trying to create an independent eco-system," he added, noting the company has been looking to leverage what is already available. This includes working with partners such as marine connectivity specialist MTN Satellite Communications to provide the Ku-band satellite network services for the Panasonic connectivity product and with Aeromobile on in-flight mobile communications services.

"Technology has moved on and we can better use the spectrum," saidMargis, adding the company also benefits because as an IFE provider it sees connectivity as just one part of the product.

Panasonic believes it will also benefit from Lufthansa's earlier experience and understanding of in-flight broadband connectivity, and is even able to reuse some of the former system Lufthansa had for the Connexion by Boeing service.

Lufthansa had around 70 aircraft flying with Connexion by Boeing and expects to be able to rapidly ramp up the Panasonic system-equipped fleet to enable it to launch the service in the middle of 2010on about50 aircraft. It hopes to have its full long-haul fleet, numbering up to 100 aircraft, outfitted by the end of 2011.

Margis expects more carriers to follow Lufthansa's lead on connectivity. "There are other airlines potentially on their way. I think once they [airlines] see Lufthansa move in this direction, there will be more," he said.

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