[Avionics Today 09-24-2015] Lufthansa has announced plans to launch broadband Internet on its short and medium-haul flights beginning in the summer 2016. Germany's largest carrier will introduce broadband powered by Inmarsat's Global Xpress (GX) aviation network, which launched its third satellite in the constellation at the end of August, making progress toward global commercial service introduction by the end of 2015.
Honeywell's JetWave hardware will provide onboard connectivity for Lufthansa. Photo: Honeywell Aerospace.
This will be Lufthansa's second connected aircraft endeavor, as it has been operating with broadband Internet access on long-haul intercontinental flights since 2010. The airline also added a FlyNet dual Wide Local Area Network (WLAN)/mobile telephone GMS portal at the beginning of 2015.
In the near term, beginning in mid 2016, Lufthansa's medium-haul Airbus A320s, Boeing 737s and Embraer and Bombardier regional jets will be using the purely satellite-based GX Aviation network. During a recent interview
, Inmarsat Senior Vice President of Aviation Technology David Schoen told Avionics Magazine
that the GX Aviation network is designed specifically around supporting high speed broadband for aircraft. GX features 89 spot small, capacity intense beams with up to 50 Mbps per beam to enable multiple users within small areas to share high-speed broadband.
The U.K.-based satellite service provider uses the iDirect radio access system to ensure that even when multiple aircraft with 20 to 30 users per cabin are flying within the same beam, all of those users can gain speedy access to Internet, rather than seeing slow connection times due to too many users over the same connection.
"We use the iDirect radio access system to manage the capacity demands between users in real time within each GX beam," said Schoen. "Capacity is allocated as the traffic is generated by individual users. Most internet traffic is very 'bursty,' with short periods of activity followed by idle time for the individual user's device."
Eventually, the new regional connected aircraft service will be operated under a partnership between Lufthansa, Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom. Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom are launching an innovative combined LTE-based ground network and satellite network, dubbed the "European Aviation Network," which will combine satellite-based S-band connectivity from Inmarsat with a ground-based LTE network developed and run by Deutsche Telekom.
According to Inmarsat, the European Aviation Network is part of its long-term airborne connectivity service plans, as Lufthansa has committed to a flight trial program of the network beginning in 2017.
Lufthansa Technik will be integrating all the systems and components necessary to facilitate GX connectivity on the airline's regional aircraft. Lufthansa Systems will provide the technical infrastructure needed to establish the onboard Internet connection.
Honeywell Aerospace is the exclusive provider of the GX Aviation onboard terminals with its JetWave hardware. Carl Esposito, vice president of marketing and product management for Honeywell, told Avionics Magazine in an emailed statement that the company is looking to set a new benchmark in In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) speeds with the GX platform.
"A survey, commissioned by Honeywell, found that one in five respondents have switched from their preferred airline because another carrier had better Wi-Fi offerings. Passengers’ expectations of connectivity drive airline preferences, and Lufthansa is recognizing their passengers desire for fast and consistent in-flight Wi-Fi," said Esposito. “Arguably Ka-band systems have been the future of airborne global connectivity for years. What was needed was the right team of companies to come together to make it happen."
Both Honeywell and Inmarsat have noted that the GX Aviation network allows passengers to perform simple Internet tasks, such as emailing and web browsing, as well as more bandwidth-intensive tasks, such as using streaming videos.
"Having equipped all planes in the Lufthansa intercontinental fleet with our successful FlyNet system, we are now continuing our success story by providing Internet on board our short and medium-haul flights. We are therefore the first airline in Europe able to offer its guests an Internet surfing experience boasting the same quality and speed as they are used to at home," said Deutsche Lufthansa AG Chairman of the Executive Board Carsten Spohr in a statement.