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Panasonic May Relaunch In-flight Broadband 109

Posted by samzenpus
from the surf-the-friendly-skies dept.
Glenn Fleishman writes "Panasonic's avionics division may relaunch Connexion by Boeing by using similar technology that's better, cheaper, and lighter. The company said today that they were looking to get airlines to commit to 500 planes within 60 days, and already had 150 aircraft committed. They'd still use Ku band, but have a cheaper and smaller set of leases. Connexion had at least $120m in yearly fixed expenses, a large part of which was transponder licenses. The new service would provide 12 Mbps down and 3 Mbps (versus Connexion's 5 Mbps/1 Mbps), and be priced conceivably as low as $10 per session wholesale, with airlines choosing to not mark up rates. With that higher rate, even with latency, in-flight VoIP seems more achievable at a reasonable cost, although some airlines may choose to block VoIP services. I reported for The Economist magazine last week about mobile phones in flight (services coming in Europe in 2007). Three U.S. airlines told me that American passengers have very low interest or negative interest in allowing any voice (cell or otherwise) during flights. Europeans, with shorter flights and lower expectations of privacy perhaps, are more open to it." We covered the story back when Boeing decided to scrap Connexion.
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Panasonic May Relaunch In-flight Broadband

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  • by HatchedEggs (1002127) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @09:54PM (#16150964) Homepage Journal
    I could really care less about making calls on a plane. In fact, I WOULD HATE IT. You know why? Because every annoying person in the world would converge on my airplane and make calls through-out the flight. This would result in me not being able to sleep or relax, and I would then arrive at my destination tired and strained.

    Slippery slope? Not really, think about all the boring calls you have to listen to on a shorter transit system. Now put 300 bored people on a plane and see how they go about trying to relieve that boredome.

    Now. I would certainly be happy to have internet access on the plane... and the slight tapping of keys I could deal with. Plus, give me something to do on my computer and I'd easily forget what else was going on.

    So what do I say? Spare me having to listen to cell phones or VOIP for the whole plane trip. If you can limit it to 10 minutes of calling per passenger, then fine. Otherwise, stop trying to make my co-passengers even more annoying.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by QuantumG (50515)
      You already can make calls on international flights, even in cattle class. Just swipe your credit card and call.
      • But At least they charge a heffty fee for annoying everyone.
        • by QuantumG (50515)
          I've really never found it annoying. You gotta think about this in context. You've been on a plane for 10 hours, someone picks up the phone and calls their loved one, the conversation goes something like this:

          "Have you landed yet?"
          "No."
          "Err, so how are you calling me?"
          "There's a phone in the arm rest."
          "Did you get an upgrade to business class?"
          "No, it's in every seat."
          "Wow, that's cool."
          "Can you hear me alright?"
          "Yeah."

          After being on the plane for 10 hours you're just about ready to talk to anyone about a
    • by DRue (152413) <drue@t h e r u b . org> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:28PM (#16151084) Homepage
      "Europeans, with shorter flights and lower expectations of privacy"

      It has nothing to do with privacy, and everything to do with the fact that nobody wants to sit in a tin can listening to some guy talk for 2 hours about his hemorrhoids and digestive problems.
      • I would actually hazard a guess (illogical, though) that it's "terr'ists". Who knows, perhaps the Jihadis might be trying to coordinate attacks. "Thank you for using Skyfone" "Ahh, Achmed, it is time."
      • by forkazoo (138186) <(wrosecrans) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @11:24PM (#16151309) Homepage
        "Europeans, with shorter flights and lower expectations of privacy"

        It has nothing to do with privacy, and everything to do with the fact that nobody wants to sit in a tin can listening to some guy talk for 2 hours about his hemorrhoids and digestive problems.


        Indeed. Considering the current issues of warrantless wiretapping, I can't imagine why Americans would have higher expectations of privacy. We just know that our fellow americans would abuse the ability to talk loudly in a confined place. Now, I wouldn't mind seeing a reasonably priced sound proof phone booth on the airplane. If I need to make an important call, I can. But, I can do it without disturbing other passengers. Hell, maybe just put phones in the bathroom, and make them dual purpose...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mapkinase (958129)
          "maybe just put phones in the bathroom, and make them dual purpose..." You are not serious, right?

          Because if the pain of hearing about hemorroids of your neighbor is strong, the embarassment of peeing in your pants waiting in line to the loo consisting of travellers sufferring of communication-diarrhea is even stronger, one would think.

          I am thinking earplugs as a solution.
        • TGV carriages have this cute little logo of a sleeping mobile phone, with a logo of a smiling mobile phone bopping about at the ends of the carriages, by the doors/toilets. I don't know that there is any culture that enjoys listening to other people yapping on mobiles.
      • This reminds me of a mind game that I played in public once; in fact, it was on a bike trail in Seattle with many bicyclists and joggers. I was seated on a park bench, well within earshot of many of them.

        I once took out my cell phone, flipped it open, and proceeded to dial a number. However, I never touched the send key. The phone was still switched off.

        I waited an appropriate time and then said loudly:

        "Hi! Is this Dr. Paul, the psychiatrist's office?"

        I wait, and then say, "This is Mrs. Clear Plastic. I hav
      • by Nethead (1563)
        It has nothing to do with privacy, and everything to do with the fact that nobody wants to sit in a tin can listening to some guy talk for 2 hours about his hemorrhoids and digestive problems.

        We're talking about cell phones here, not ham radio.

      • ... nobody wants to sit in a tin can listening to some guy talk for 2 hours about his hemorrhoids and digestive problems.
        Please explain how talking about this on a cellphone is different from talking to the person next to him.
        • by ftsf (886792)
          Please explain how talking about this on a cellphone is different from talking to the person next to him.
          because you only get to listen in to one half of the conversation.
          of course this means you can fill in the other half yourself to entertain yourself in your boredom.
    • I say lets do it. Like the others have mentioned, phones already exist on planes. People make things out to be worse than they are going to be. It's like when a parent tells the kid that they are moving. The kids like "this sucks, I'll lose all my friends and I'll hate the new place." Then they move and the kid loves the new place and makes new friends.

      I bet $20 that you'll be using your phone just as much as the next guy or gal. I bet people complained when TV's were being added to planes, but they aren't
      • by Rix (54095)
        I bet $20 that you'll be using your phone just as much as the next guy or gal.

        Don't be silly. Everyone knows that people on /. are antisocial nerds with no one to call.
    • by Qzukk (229616) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:51PM (#16151188) Journal
      I WOULD HATE IT. You know why? Because every annoying person in the world would converge on my airplane and make calls through-out the flight.

      I smell a business model here.

      You can pay $10 to use the internet.
      You can pay $20 to use the internet and let VoIP traffic through.
      You can pay $50 to disable the VoIP traffic for the people sitting in the seats around you :)
    • by Frogbert (589961)
      I could really care less about making calls on a plane.
      So you do care to some extent?
      • by dreamlax (981973)

        I've never understood why people say "I could care less...". Care less then. Care so much more less that you can't care less. Then say it properly: "I couldn't care less...".

        • I've never understood why people say "I could care less...". Care less then. Care so much more less that you can't care less. Then say it properly: "I couldn't care less...".

          It was originally the sarcastic expression: "As if I could care any less [than I do]!"

          It was shortened to "I could care less!" with the same meaning.

          The great-grandparent seems unaware of the literal meaning, since inserting the word "really" into a textual sarcastic expression without including "as if" can have the effect of negat

    • by Rob Kaper (5960)
      If other people annoy you that much, you should consider taking private transportation.
    • by rachit (163465)
      Now that almost all airlines did away with smoking sections vs. non-smoking sections, I can see them coming up with cellphone sections vs. non-cellphone sections.

      Which doesn't help because you have the same problems we had before with smoking sections. On a full flight, you may be forced to take a seat in the cellphone section, or you may be seated close enough to the cellphone section that you still get disturbed.
    • Buy an iPod.
  • I agree with the annoyingness of in flight phone calls. If I were a traveling business person I'd love the excuse to be out of contact with everyone for a while. Plus, who wants to sit there and listen to the person next to you talking about their job or girlfriend or worse, TO their girlfriend! I just want to sit there and eat those nuts in peace after all that hard work getting em open.
  • Inconceivable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LoverOfJoy (820058) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:06PM (#16151001) Homepage
    priced conceivably as low as $10 per session wholesale, with airlines choosing to not mark up rates.


    Is it really conceivable for airlines to not mark up rates of something?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rob Kaper (5960)
      Yes, it is. Most European "budget" airliners have won amazing marketshares by doing just that: no more drinks etcetera free-of-charge (and where possibly/feasible using cheap airports instead of the main ones). And what they charge are normal commercial rates for public places. Actually, by the gallon beer is cheaper on a flight than in some of the clubs I visit.
      • by Carewolf (581105)
        Actually even with the worst flights the beer is cheaper on the plane than in most airports.
  • by Freaky Spook (811861) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:07PM (#16151008)
    But when I do for business I enjoy the fact that myself and everyone else on the plane cannot talk and is not in contact with anyone.

    Its like a few hours of peice and quiet where I actually don't need to think about work or listen to other people yack on about similar stuff.

    I'd be happy to see planes without internet and phone access because then I wouldn't feel preassured into actually doing more work during a time where I should be relaxing.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      cos(sin(cos(pi/2))) == csc(pi/2)
  • by RuBLed (995686) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:11PM (#16151022)
    ... ...
  • Internet access on the plane - GOOD.... Gives me something to do rather than twiddle my thumbs for 2+ hours...

    Cell phones on a plane - ICK! NO! It's already bad enough having to hear everyone else on the plane's stupid conversations during the boarding process and as soon as we touch down... Apparently people don't get the concept of "Keep it short and simple". Instead they have to have these marathon discussions over the phone and talk LOUDLY. And god forbid if they have one of those Nextel -type walkie ta
  • I don't know about you, but even on a 2 hour flight I wouldn't be in the mood to surf the internet or trying to make a VOIP call. And to pay $10-$20 for the luxury of internet access for such a short flight? Not likely. Maybe a longer flight, but probably not most people who aren't flying first class already. Besides, they already charge that $10 fee just to use the in airport wifi. So if you have one connecting flight and a wait at each airport thats: 10*5 = $50. Once while you're waiting for the first fli
    • by darkov (261309)
      (a) for some people an hour doing nothing is a long time and they can probably earn $100 in that time (b) obviously you don't fly very long distances, lots of people do. I do 23 hour flights a couple of times a year and I would kill for the service.
      • by Exocrist (770370)
        The one problem I see with wireless on planes right now is battery life. My PowerBook battery gets about 4 hours under "optimal conditions" (read: fully charged, brightness at minimum setting, little HD activity, etd)

        11 hour flight? No problem, as long as your battery doesn't die. If they also decided to put in power outlets, perhaps even multiple types, or provide adapters for international flights, then I think it'd be a pretty good deal. 11 hour flight across half of the US and the Atlantic?
        • by darkov (261309)
          Quite agree, I think if the airlines are serious they need to distribute power in every seat cluster and maybe hire out laptops for use by people who don't travel with them. Why are you asking about 11 hour flights btw?
        • by Doppler00 (534739)
          First the laptop manufactures have to get their act together and STANDARDIZE ON DC POWER! I'm sick of all the different types of power bricks required. You should be able to plug into a standard 24V port, with 2-3 amps current available. But no, we have to use 120V outlets for everything. :(
  • Use a balloon? [slashdot.org]

    I love flying. There's so much to look forward to on each flight..

    • Packed into seats like sardines
    • Crying babies
    • People on cell phones
    • People with MP3 players cranked up through cheap buds so loud they sound like a swarm of wasps trapped in a tin can.
    • Recirculated air as an equal opportunity distribution system for germs
    • Dehumanising security checks
    • Being in continuous discomfort from entering origin airport to leaving destination airport.

    Well... maybe I can steal a few industrial secr

    • by calix0815 (899216)
      > Recirculated air as an equal opportunity distribution system for germs

      Don't they use compressed air from the engines to ventilate the cabin while the pressure regulator in the tail is constantly bleeding the excess (i.e. used) air back to the outside?

      So you might smell some bird farts, but your cold is probably caused by the dry air and the sometimes ice cold temperature and not too high a concentration of germs.
    • Do what I do.

      I travel a lot for business, mostly just trips around the Southeast US, with an occasional longer trip to New England or the West Coast. I had always been interested in flying and I finally bit the bullet and went and got my license.

      I now fly my own airplane. I can beat the airlines time-wise on any trip under about 2000nm. It takes me 40 minutes to drive/take the train to Hartsfield, whereas I can drive to my local airport, pre-flight and load the airplane and be on my way in about 30 minut
  • The problem with access is if you hate phone, imagine webcams. Oh noes!!11!
  • by rocketman768 (838734) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:31PM (#16151098) Homepage
    The new service would provide 12 Mbps down and 3 Mbps (versus Connexion's 5 Mbps/1 Mbps), and be priced conceivably as low as $10...
    Should that read "...and 3 Mbps UP..."?
    • Wait, if my laptop is at flight level 350, which end of the network is "down"?
    • The service to each aircraft is 12 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload, but this would be across several satellite transponder using spread spectrum technology. Therefore, several aircraft in a given satcom's coverage would share this bandwidth. WiFi on the aircraft itself, with data rates depending on what Panasonic wants.
  • This seems wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by empaler (130732) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:39PM (#16151128) Journal
    "... Europeans, with shorter flights and lower expectations of privacy perhaps, are more open to it."

    The last few times I've had to fly, I haven't been asked to have an anal probe inserted while answering ungodly questions about my personal life. That's because I fly in Europe.
    • Iv'e only ever been truly (no not that) searched in Europe. Then again, maby thats because I'm flying to America. I've come to expect way more questions and scrutiny on the way back from Europe than leaving the US for Europe.

      I can just picture the Spanish security guard who propably couldn't care less if 250 Americans crashed in to the ocean thinking, "Oh shit. I hope no Americans get killed on my watch. You know how those Americans are. Lose their luggage and they act like you just killed a family member
    • by Carewolf (581105)
      No that's because you fly from the UK. Now move the continent..
      • by empaler (130732)
        Never been to the UK... I live in Denmark. I actually (pre-2001) once forgot that I had a fishing knife in my carry-on bag (my trusty rucksack). This was of course spotted when they x-rayed my bag.
        At first, I was sent into a queue (consisting of only me, behind a very bewildered old lady) to hand over the knife and have it shipped home. However, the guy who sent me over to the queue came over to me after a few minutes, told me to hand over the bag and the knife, looked around, and stuffed the knife into the
        • by Carewolf (581105)
          Ahh. Misread your comments as you had been asked for a anal probe ;)

          I am from Denmark too, and I am so happy I chose to fly directly to Dublin tomorrow instead of changing planes in the UK..
    • I fly internationally once-or-twice per year. The only time I ever had a problem was at the Zurich airport. In the US, I only have to wait in those god-awful lines, but there was no problem.
  • by Ugly American (885937) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:54PM (#16151205)
    In related news, the RIAA has announced the purchase of several F-22A raptors to pursue downloaders.
  • Well, someone has to provide internet on a plain.
    How else are you suppose to email the pictures of the snakes?
    • Well, someone has to provide internet on a plain.
      How else are you suppose to email the pictures of the snakes?


      hey, do you then think the snakes in Spain stay mainly in the plane?
  • by Archon-X (264195) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @11:14PM (#16151280)
    I've travelled frequently - and here's my synopsis of phone useage and planes - if I may:

    Australia: Phones are off all the way. When disembarking up the walkway, you'll start to hear SMS messages come in.
    Hong-Kong: Touchdown, SMSs are in. Calls being made while disembarking.
    USA: Calls made until the plane taxis, calls made the instant the plane lands.
    Europe [Denmark, France]: SMS on disembark
    UK: SMS the instant the plane hits
    Japan: Not a peep. Those guys actually know how to use the vibrate setting.

    Of course the above is far from conclusive - but everytime I travel to the US I am still amazed how attached Americans are to their last desperate phone call before the phone takes off..
  • "Europeans, with shorter flights and lower expectations of privacy perhaps"

    No, Europeans have higher expectations of privacy, as reflected in their much stronger privacy protection laws. Maybe their openness just comes from their manners, which let them all talk on mobile phones quietly and discreetly already, though they're all jammed together in a little continent full of cities. Or maybe Americans are mostly just hundreds of millions of primitives who can't respect each other, dependent on an increasingl
    • by fireman sam (662213) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @12:26AM (#16151488) Homepage Journal
      into phone: Hello... yeah?... can you hear me now?... how about now?... yeah?... good... Listen I just called... what?... How about now?... good... Listen, I just wanted to say... wanted to say that... now?... Say that I have to agree with you about the lack of... Hang on... How about now?... lack of manners that some people have when they are on the... Is that better?... when they are on the phone... How about now?... I'll call you again in 5 minutes... You're breaking up... I'll call you back...
        to fellow passenger (trying to sleep): Don't you just hate these things?

      Thankyou
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        I bet that's a lot harder to say, and even harder to hear, in French, German, Italian, Romanian, with a British/Irish accent, Spanish, Swedish, Dutch...
    • by nchip (28683)
      Maybe their openness just comes from their manners, which let them all talk on mobile phones quietly and discreetly already

      My word.

      * Guns don't kill people
      * Cellphones don't make people loud and rude
  • So sad. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @12:55AM (#16151589) Homepage Journal
    and already had 150 aircraft committed.
    It was for their own protection. The poor unfortunate airplanes had completely lost their grip on reality, and believed themselves to be ocean liners.

    When the 737s started terrorizing maintenance workers on the runway by taxing over to them and shouting "I'm a luxury cruise ship, play shuffleboard on me damn you!" we knew it was time for the padded hangars.
  • We've discussed how unpleasant cell phone conversations on planes would be, and have hoped that perhaps if they become enabled and allowed that there would be planes for people who will use their cell phones on which there will also be all people with small children who have not been sedated.
  • > Three U.S. airlines told me that American passengers have very low interest or negative interest in allowing any voice (cell or otherwise) during flights.

    Yeah, I go along with that, I've got a negative interest in allowing voices during flights, ie shut the hell up.

    You don't really need to worry about using the phone, if you can't speak.

    Perhaps it could be like Neo in the Matrix, "How can you use VOIP on a plane, if you can.. not.. speak".

    This is a pretty poorly written story, other faults have already
  • by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday September 21, 2006 @03:47AM (#16151931)
    Ok, every person too stupid to bring ear plugs when they know they are going to be in a crowd and want silence, raise your hand!
  • But only if they let your Dell, Apple, or [perhaps] IBM laptop on the plane with a battery. Otherwise, I'd call this a good idea. Just make it available in Economy Plus, and include it as a courtisy feature...
  • I've suggested this before -- instead of opening up the voice channels, why not just let everyone use their phone's text messaging feature, and that's it? Satisfies the need for people to tell their friends/family/dog about where/when they are, delays, arrivals etc. and eliminates the voice chatter.

    This seems just intuitive to me, why doesn't anyone pick up on it?
    • by barath_s (609997)
      Because not everyone's friends / family / dog have cell phones with text messaging ? Some of us still use landlines, you know. And some things are best accomplished by voice.
    • by symonty (233005)
      They already have, I am aware of many business plans for text messaging, and I have even implemented a system for many airlines just for SMS, via there seat-back.

      I absolutely agree about text, and I can tell you that I see around 1000 text messages a day from the airlines I have implemented, at the moment and passengers use the service extensively and are very happy with it.
  • Up vs. down (Score:3, Funny)

    by booch (4157) <slashdot2010@noSpAM.craigbuchek.com> on Thursday September 21, 2006 @10:44AM (#16153451) Homepage
    I assume they mean that it has 12 Mbps download speed. Which is actually 12 Mbps up from the ground to the plane.
    • by symonty (233005)
      Remember that it is shared across all planes in a spot beam maybe transponder even.
  • So, American airlines will probably never commit if people can't ever bring their laptops, PDAs, or phones on planes. Or has that changed?

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