Following a deal with Panasonic, Lufthansa is set to relaunch FlyNet, its on-board broadband Internet service, after a three year hiatus. From the middle of 2010, customers will be able to communicate via the internet and the new service will also permit inflight data transfer over standard GSM/GPRS mobile networks.
Three year ago Lufthansa was among the first carriers to offer inflight broadband, but by the end of 2006 the carrier withdrew the service when Boeing scrapped its Connexion product. Since Boeing killed off Connexion, a new generation of the inflight internet providers, including Aircell, OnAir, Panasonic and Row 44, have learned lessons from the failed Boeing product, developing onboard connectivity offerings that are cheaper, lighter and easier to install.
Lufthansa will be the launch customer of Panasonic’s new exConnect service. When the new service is introduced Lufthansa passengers will have WLAN Internet access and will also be able to send SMS messages by mobile phone and transfer data via smartphones such as PDA, iPhone or BlackBerry devices. The airline aims to equip a major part of its long-range fleet with FlyNet within the first year of operation.
“In terms of communications, Lufthansa customers can look forward to a top-tier inflight service,” said Lufthansa CEO and Chairman Wolfgang Mayrhuber. “On long-haul routes, we offer business travellers, in particular, a range of communications options on a par with those available at powerful hotspots or upmarket hotels.”
Lufthansa is deliberately focusing on high bandwidth as the main requirement for the unrestricted use of such services as web surfing, email/file transfer including attachments and the Virtual Private Network (VPN). In addition, only wide bandwidth will enable potential future operational applications such as telemedicine for the transmission of a patient’s vital parameters to a ground station.
FlyNet is user-friendly. Passengers with a WLAN or GSM/GPRS-compatible device can log on from any point in the aircraft cabin, just like at any public hotspot. Depending on the device they are using (i.e. a laptop, mobile phone or a smart phone), passengers can choose to be billed via a mobile service provider or pay by credit card. Various different price models are planned – ranging from a rate by the hour to a monthly flat rate.
The service will gradually become available on all Lufthansa’s long-haul flights worldwide.