German airline Lufthansa will soon have wireless broadband access on its entire long-haul fleet from next year, following a deal with Boeing.
About 80 long-haul jets, including the Boeing 747-800 and the Airbus SAS A340 and A330, will be fitted with the Connexion by Boeing wireless internet system.
The airline's FlyNet wireless internet service enables business users to set up a secure VPN (virtual private network) data connection to their company's own intranet or mail server.
Lufthansa and Boeing have yet to disclose prices for the service, saying only that passengers will be able to use their Miles & More bonus miles or pay a "nominal fee" to use the service. The service was offered for free on trial flights between Frankfurt and Washington DC between January and April this year.
The in-flight broadband service will offer speeds up to 20Mbps (bits per second) to the aircraft and 1Mbps from the aircraft, although the speeds can vary depending on the weather and other factors, according to a Connexion spokesman.
The Wlan service will be available at speeds up to 11Mbps, he said.
A key for the two-way broadband communications service is a receive and transmit antenna developed by Boeing, which steers beams electronically, permitting instantaneous connections between satellites and the servers and routing systems inside jets.
Passengers can connect either by plugging their notebook computers into Ethernet jacks mounted in the seats or connecting via wireless Lan cards.
British Airways, which has also tested the Connexion service between London and New York, Japan Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines System also have plans to deploy the technology on their long-haul aircraft.
US airlines have shown initial interest in the Connexion system but pulled out shortly after the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001, citing financial concerns.
John Blau writes for IDG News Service