Panasonic Avionics has set the initial pricing scheme for its eXConnect connectivity service, which will give passengers access to broadband Internet and live television.

The in-flight entertainment (IFE) giant is setting prices at $21.95 for 24 hours of use of the Ku-band-based connectivity service or an hourly rate of $11.95.

As fleet roll-out improves, however, Panasonic expects to "get prices down from there", Panasonic vice-president, global communications services David Bruner revealed in an interview with Space News.

The firm will also offer pricing for 30 minutes of use of eXConnect in regional markets, as well as a reduced pricing model for simple texting.

Monthly subscriptions for heavy users of the service will also be made available.

GSM mobile phone access is expected to play a significant role in the eXConnect model. "We expect it will be around 50% of the revenue and only a small percent of the total system cost, judging from our experience so far," says Bruner.

"What the airlines are thinking about is allowing mobile phone access for, say, the first couple of hours of a flight, and then shutting off that service. The broadband and messaging access can continue. This is done automatically so you almost make system operation independent of the crew."

Panasonic recently revealed it has secured an initial customer base of five airlines for eXConnect - two from Europe, two from Asia and one from Africa. Installation on the first major customer will occur late in the calendar year of 2009 following a trial on a 737 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ).

Sources say Lufthansa intends to offer eXConnect on its overseas aircraft, which are already equipped with now-commercially-defunct Connexion by Boeing's system. Neither Panasonic nor Lufthansa has confirmed the relationship.

However, when asked by Space News if Panasonic will use any of the hardware that was developed for Connexion, Bruner says: "For one customer we are using Connexion antennas. They are not as good as the antennas we are developing [with partner EMS Technologies] but we're going to take advantage of the existing development."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news