Here’s an interesting twist. Continental was toying with LiveTV at one stage for connectivity. United was testing Gogo. Today the following PR made it official; “United Continental Holdings, Inc. today announced that it selected Panasonic Avionics Corporation to provide WiFi connectivity in all cabins on more than 300 United Airlines and Continental Airlines aircraft beginning in mid-2012. Panasonic’s Ku-band satellite technology offers faster speed than air-to-ground technology (ATG) and will provide connectivity on flights worldwide. The system will also enable wireless streaming of video content.”
This is blow to Gogo which has to have hoped it would win the competition. It is also a blow to Row44 – the other ATG option in the market. It is a huge win for Panasonic.
Crucially the PR does mention the “killer app” – Jim Compton, United’s EVP and chief revenue officer. “As a global carrier, United is especially pleased that the Ku-band technology will enable customers to stay connected on longer overseas flights, something no other U.S.-based international carrier currently offers.” Yes that is a big item. Delta and American, please pay attention. United is now doing what its Star partner Lufthansa has done. No doubt this selection by United was influenced by Lufthansa.
United expects to install the Panasonic system on Airbus 319 and 320 and Boeing 747, 757, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft. In other words a service offering on all its planes – making sure traveler expectations are met across the fleet. By 2015 the entire fleet will have WiFi.
Here’s a bit of CI we came across recently – Panasonic has bought the rights and IP to the Israeli developed Starling antennae. This antenna is smaller and lighter with better coverage than the Melco one dating back to Connexion and currently deployed on the Lufthansa fleet. Panasonic therefore will now be able to offer its technology end-to-end to its airline customer base. By offering hardware from the antennae to front end servers and storage Panasonic can be extremely creative in making an airline an offer no other vendor can match. With all the hardware carrying one label and coming from one vendor an airline can be assured there will be no system conflicts. It is a compelling “plug and play” offering.