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Lufthansa to relaunch intercontinental in-flight Internet

German airline Lufthansa said that it plans to offer Panasonic's ExConnext broadband service in the middle of next year and will quickly expand access to cover the majority of its aircraft within the first 12 months of service.

Lufthansa was the launch customer for the Connexion by Boeing service that began in 2004 but was closed down in 2006 after failing to gain traction among passengers. The terrorist attacks of 2001 also dealt the service a blow when major U.S. airlines reversed earlier plans to enable their fleets with Internet access.

Lufthansa will use the same FlyNet branding for the proposed service. Pricing and route details are yet to be announced, although Lufthansa said it would offer options from an hourly access plan to one that covers an entire month.

The previous service charged between $10 and $30 for broadband access throughout a flight.

The ExConnect service from Panasonic Avionics, a major provider of in-flight entertainment systems, is capable of delivering a data stream of up to 50Mbit/sec. to an aircraft. That stream can be split between channels for airline use, live television, telephone and cell-phone access and Internet. In its announcement, Lufthansa said it would offer Internet access to PC users and data access to cell phone and smart phone users.

Several in-flight Internet services already exist although most are based on cellular networks or a single satellite and so cover a limited geographic area, such as the continental U.S. The Lufthansa service will offer connectivity throughout most of an intercontinental flight.

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