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Panasonic to Bring Back Connexion

Panasonic (who has an aviation division – who knew?) is planning to restore Internet service on planes that was previously offered under the Connexion by Boeing brand.

As previously reported, Boeing has been planning to shut down the service because they couldn’t make money on it. Panasonic plans to offer a faster service for cheaper and still make money. Wonder how that’s possible?

Previously, I commented on the fact that the Connexion service was ridiculously designed from a physical perspective, was bloated from a staffing perspective, and incompletely rolled out.

Specifically, nine Cisco Catalyst 3548 switches is just dumb. There was never any need to put 10/100 ports at each seat and I suspect everyone knew it even at the time. Cisco got a big contract, but at the cost of the viability of the service. Moreover, at peak staffing, Boeing has over 600 people working for the division. Over 600. 600. In case you didn’t read that properly, let me repeat. Over. 600. People. No wonder they couldn’t make any money. Finally, there was the roll-out problem. Without being able to rely on service on every plane from a given carrier, it was difficult for the service to build up a reliable business client base.

These factors combined to make the service unlikley to succeed in a tough travel climate. Panasonic is actually citing another factor not previously discussed here: the cost of the Satellite bandwidth. Evidently, Boeing was paying some premium rates for the bandwidth they were providing to the planes. They were doing this because they didn’t have a large enough group of planes using the service. Catch-22. Panasonic, by virtue of planning on a larger group of planes and using more efficient encoding, believes they can more than double the bandwidth to each plane with a lighter, more efficient transciever for a lower cost.

But Panasonic only intends to go forward with the offering if they can get 500 planes worth of commitments from air carriers within the next 60 days. They have 150 in the pocket so far, according to marketing director David Bruner, and they have high hopes for the rest. But the economics of the whole service depend on getting that initial collection of planes large enough. So there is at least some hope that Internet service on flights may be available in the future.

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