Boeing Installs Inflight High Speed Broadband

Panasonic Avionics' eXConnect wireless service offers worldwide Internet speeds up to 50 Mbps, about 100 times faster than competing airplane Wi-Fi.

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A Boeing Business Jet 737 aircraft has been installed and certified to use eXConnect, the first inflight wireless high-speed broadband service, the world's largest aerospace company and commercial jet manufacturer said this week.

Passengers and crew members will be able to use eXConnect for access to real-time content on a laptop, handheld, or other Wi-Fi-enabled device. Airlines can use the service for enhanced communications to receive and send data about the aircraft relating to cabin operations, maintenance, flight operations, airline operations, and airport, said Panasonic Avionics, maker of the eXConnect service.

Passengers anywhere in the world will experience Internet speeds of up to 50 Mbps -- about 100 times the speed of the current fastest connectivity available on airplanes, according to Boeing.

"The eXConnect system installed on the Boeing 737 continues to exceed our expectations, and we are very excited to show customers, OEMs, and other groups the true broadband experience made possible by our Ku solution," said Paul Margis, CEO of Panasonic Avionics, in a statement. Ku is a broadband satellite system offering faster speeds and service at a lower cost than either cellular or other satellite mobile broadband alternatives.

A global network of satellites will be used by an antenna mounted on the 737 jet's fuselage to communicate, and will provide higher data rates than antennas typically used on business aviation aircraft, which are mounted on the tail, Boeing said. Global coverage is possible on the 737, which the company said is better suited for carrying a larger and more capable antenna than a traditional-sized business jet.

The Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) has more space, comfort, productivity and utility features than traditional corporate jets, said BBJ president Steve Taylor. "Panasonic's new high-speed data system opens up a new capability to our customers that will help satisfy the growing need for passengers to be connected all the time, including in the air," said Taylor, in a statement.

The privately owned BBJ will be used by Panasonic for ongoing testing, validation, and live demonstrations as part of the installation agreement, Boeing said.

Last month, JetBlue announced plans to install advanced Wi-Fi technology for its LiveTV service by mid 2012.

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