Panasonic.Aero is a giant in the world of IFE [In-Flight Entertainment], with its services being used by the world’s best airliners… sadly, that almost excludes all of North American carriers, sans Virgin America and JetBlue.
Panasonic hardware sits inside the latest planes from Emirates and Singapore Airliners, offering top notch entertainment – but Panasonic Aero wants to do more. This IFE giant invested millions of dollars into the development of so called Ku-band, to be known as eXConnect. This system consists out of several components, most importantly, one of them being the antenna. Any external antenna increases the drag, thus raising the fuel consumption and increasing the cost of service to potentially too high levels for regular users. That was the main reason why Connexion by Boeing failed – it had bulky antenna and consumed more than 1ton of Jet-A fuel per flight. In today’s green environment, that is a pretty high cost [even though planes are the most ecological mean of public transport, Ed.]. Panasonic used EMS Technologies/Starling antenna and the joint venture between these two manufacturers proved to be worth a pot of gold.
At first, the specifications are quite interesting: 30 Mbps downstream, 1.5 Mbps upstream, availability over the North Atlantic, Asia, South America, South Pacific and Africa. This service already has five undisclosed airliners – but we managed to learn that the companies in question are Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Quantas, TAP Portugal and one "member X" coming from an airport one hour below Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport
The service will roll out above the Atlantic first, and we have a sneaky suspicion that Emirates’ Airbus A380-800 and Boeing’s 777-300ER will be the first planes to receive this innovative service. In roughly the 2011-2013 timeframe, you should be able to have this service as a standard.
Yes, we know it is 3-4 years from now, but the speed of airline industry sadly doesn’t follow the speed of their own planes, yet alone the speed of our IT industry.