Lufthansa is to be the first network airline in Europe to offer Inmarsat’s Ka-band GX broadband inflight connectivity service on board its short and medium-haul flights.
It will also partner with Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom on the new 4G LTE/satellite hybrid ATG European Aviation Network.
Announcing the news at a press conference in Frankfurt, Lufthansa said the first aircraft will be fitted with the new technology in early summer 2016.
The new service from Lufthansa and technology partner Inmarsat is based on the latter’s Global Xpress (Ka-band) network and will offer “seamless, reliable coverage on short and medium-haul flights”.
Carsten Spohr, Chairman of the Executive Board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, said: “Lufthansa has always been a pioneer of internet connectivity services on board its aircraft.
“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.”
Spohr said that it would start rolling the service out on its 180-strong A320 fleet, fitting the equipment at a rate of about two aircraft per week. He said it would therefore take two years to roll the service out fleet-wide.
The service will enable passengers to make the most of broadband internet access on their own mobile devices via a wireless network.
They will not only be able to use simple e-mail services, but also superior applications and even streaming.
Passengers will also be able to use their mobile phones to send and receive text messages and for the transfer of data based on their own mobile phone contract. Telephone calls on board, however, will still not be allowed due to customer preference.
The system will use Honeywell’s fuselage-mounted GX antenna. Carl Esposito, Honeywell’s Vice President, Marketing and Product Management, said: “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 recognising their passengers desire for fast and consistent in-flight Wi-Fi.”
Spohr said Lufthansa Technik will integrate all systems and components into the aircraft thanks to its many years of experience in the field of plane modification. This work will not only include installation activities, but also all tasks required in terms of aviation and licensing law.
“Lufthansa Systems will provide the technical infrastructure needed to establish a well-functioning internet connection on board. This work will include tasks such as setting up network operations in the aircraft, which is the main technical requirement for a wireless network on board and providing the software required for the operation of an internet portal,” he said.
Lufthansa Systems and Lufthansa Technik are additionally planning a long-term global partnership in order to offer other airlines a modern on-board IT platform (BoardConnect) with broadband internet access that can be used for a number of different purposes.
Lufthansa is also committing to a flight trial programme for Inmarsat’s new hybrid network being developed for Europe.
The European Aviation Network combines an S-band satellite from Inmarsat with a complementary 4G LTE ground network being provided by Deutsche Telekom. This promising and innovative technology offers potential in terms of costs and can be flexibly adapted to suit the broadband transmission demands of the future.
From 2017 onwards, Lufthansa will commence a flight trial programme of the new 4G LTE inflight connectivity technology.