Lufthansa to offer broadband Net on long-haul flights

Passengers on Lufthansa AG will soon have wireless broadband access not only on daily flights between Frankfurt, Germany, and Washington, D.C., but on the airline's entire long-haul fleet.

Lufthansa has signed a deal with The Boeing Co. to fit about 80 long-haul jets, including the Boeing 747-800 and the Airbus SAS A340 and A330, with the Connexion by Boeing wireless Internet system, the German airline company said Tuesday in a statement.

At the beginning of next year, Lufthansa will successively equip its planes with Connexion's wireless broadband technology, which it tested between January and April, Lufthansa said.

The Internet will allow business travelers "to make better use of their flying time," Lufthansa Deputy Chairman Wolfgang Mayrhuber said in the statement. The airline's FlyNet wireless Internet service enables business users to set up a secure VPN (virtual private network) data connection to their company's own intranet or mail server.

Lufthansa and Boeing have yet to disclose prices for the new service, saying only that passengers will be able to use their Miles & More bonus miles or pay a "nominal fee" to use the service. Service was offered for free on the trial flights between Frankfurt and Washington, D.C.

The in-flight broadband service will offer speeds up to 20M bps (bits per second) to the aircraft and 1M bps from the aircraft, although the speeds can vary due to weather and other factors, according to a Connexion spokesman. The WLAN service will be available at speeds up to 11M bps, he said.

A key for the two-way broadband communications service is a receive and transmit antenna developed by Boeing, according to the aircraft builder's Web site. It steers beams electronically, permitting instantaneous connections between satellites and the servers and routing systems inside jets.

Passengers can connect either by plugging their notebook computers into Ethernet jacks mounted in the seats or connecting via wireless LAN (WLAN) cards.

British Airways PLC, which tested the Connexion service between London and New York, Japan Airlines Co. (JAL) and Scandinavian Airlines System AB (SAS) also plan to deploy the technology on their long-haul aircraft.

U.S. airlines had shown initial interest in the Connexion system but pulled out shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, citing financial concerns.

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