Thursday, August 02, 2007

Aviation BroadBand Space Heating Up

The aviation broadband space is heating up.

Lufthansa and American Airlines launch broadband initiatives. In addition, a new aviation broadband technology player emerges.

Lufthansa adding in-flight broadband by 2008

Lufthansa is apparently continuing the airborne scramble to get customers connected, announcing that with the help of T-Mobile it will be reinstating its broadband service (formerly from Connexion) to its long-haul flights by 2008. Connexion was a $600m plus aviation broadband project from Boeing that was scrapped due to cost and demand issues.

In a related story, Panasonic Avionics said it was ready to pick up where Boeing's Connexion left off. Executives with Panasonic said they have a new business model that will allow them to go forward with as few as 50 planes -- and to expect an announcement from airlines within the next few months.

Some of those first airline customers for the Panasonic system will be ones who had Connexion installed.

Today, AirCell, the leading wireless data and voice communications provider in business aviation, announced it is teaming with American Airlines to test broadband services with passengers across the U.S. beginning in 2008.Aircell

AirCell's new Broadband Internet service will allow business and leisure passengers to check e-mail, surf the Web, tap into an office network and stay current on the latest news, using their own Wi-Fi enabled laptops, PDAs, iPhones(R), BlackBerrys(R) and portable gaming systems -- while in flight.

Passenger testing will be conducted on American Airlines fleet of Boeing 767-200 aircraft that primarily fly transcontinental routes. As the first to launch in-flight broadband capabilities, American and AirCell are pioneering the last frontier of domestic Internet service.

This high-speed broadband Internet service is made possible by AirCell's unique air-to-ground network, which uses the latest technology to transmit and receive data between the ground and the aircraft.

Pricing will mirror what you would pay at any ground based Wi-Fi hotspot, and speeds will be similar to what you experience in your home or office with DSL.

While this is a step in the right direction to tap into the millions of potential customers, I can't help but think that a couple hundred surfers on this one Wi-Fi connection will be disappointed with their surfing experience.

There are other technologies being developed, that could allow much faster speeds and disruptive pricing for aviation broadband.

A different method that is a contender in this space is Adapt4. Adapt4, is a supplier of efficient cognitive radio solutions that exploit unused frequency bandwidth in an FCC-certified manner. They are partnering with a bandwidth-efficient modem chip to offer a cost-effective and fast aviation broadband solution.

A multi-billion dollar market awaits for companies that connect and deliver relevant content to millions of captive consumers.

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