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Inflight internet continues to gain momentum everywhere – except, it sometimes feels, Australia – with Lufthansa now offering in-flight wifi on its North Atlantic services.
Tantalisingly Lufthansa’s launch holds out the possibility of a similar service in Australia. Lufthansa's wi-fi partner Deutsche Telekom said it is discussing its technology with other airlines, but doesn’t name any; and technology provider Panasonic has published a map of the eventual coverage of its satellite-delivered eXConnect service which clearly shows Australia and New Zealand are in its sights.
Lufthansa’s FlyNet is a Deutsche Telekom wi-fi service similar to that found on German passenger trains and in 8,000 hotspots through Germany and elsewhere in the world under the T-Mobile brand. It offers wi-fi and a virtual private network allowing travellers to communicate directly with company servers. Download speeds are up to 5mbps.
Initially the service will only work with wi-fi enabled devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, but later next year it will extend to include GSM and GPRS for mobile phones.
The technology is provided by Panasonic Avionics. In addition to wifi internet access, it allows passengers to make voice calls, send SMS messages and use devices like Blackberries.
Lufthansa plans to extend FlyNet to its entire route network by the end of 2011 and says it will be the first carrier to offer broadband on international routes. The same wi-fi service will also be available in the airline’s lounges.
FlyNet is free until the end of January. From then passengers can use a free on-board portal with news, sport and entertainment or access the Internet through a Deutsche Telekom-operated service. Charges will be a whopping €10.95 (A$15) for a single hour or €19.95 (A$27) for 24-hours.
Lufthansa is not new to inflight internet. The airline pioneered the technology between 2003 and 2006 using Boeing’s now defunct Connexion service.