The airline industry’s first on-board broadband network begins passenger trials today when a Boeing 747 takes off from Frankfurt bound for Washington DC.
The three-month trial represents the latest stage in the project developed by German flag carrier Lufthansa and Cisco IP Networking Solutions.
With 50 Fujitsu Siemens computers installed on board for the trial flight, air travellers will have high-speed internet access from the comfort of their own seats.
Although Singapore airlines has recently announced a narrowband service on their flights Lufthansa’s venture is the first broadband solution to the needs of mid-air surfers.
Passengers will have access to an internet portal that Lufthansa runs together with Tomorrow Focus AG. They will also have access to the internet and to their corporate network via virtual private network (VPN).
The Lufthansa portal offers news, stock information, weather and travel information and passengers can also send and receive emails.
Although the service is free for the trial period Lufthansa is expected to set a cost between €30 and €35 for each flight leg thereafter and users will be able to redeem air miles from the service.
Mobile information services provider, Connexion By Boeing, is providing the infrastructure that permits two-way live data between the plane and the ground, with speeds of 3Mbps downstream and 128Kbps upstream.
Cisco Systems is providing the technology for the onboard network with Wi-Fi compliant wireless connectivity throughout all the cabins and in addition an Ethernet connector in the passenger seats.
Five Cisco Aironet 350 Series Access Points have been fitted throughout the plane along with one Cisco 3640 Router and nine Cisco Catalyst 3548 XL Series Switches.
Project manager, FlyNet at Lufthansa Dr Burkard Winnger said: “We examined a couple of other options for the on-board network but we chose Cisco for its end-to-end wireless and wired networking solutions. I am convinced that the broadband internet access will be appreciated by our passengers as they can use their time onboard for information, fun and work.”
If the trial proves successful, Lufthansa is hoping to roll out broadband connectivity on its entire intercontinental fleet over the next two years.
Andreas Dohmen, vice-president and general manager of Cisco Systems Germany, said: “Today’s business traveller wants to remain connected to their offices and their customers whilst they are on the move.”
By Suzanne Byrne