On Friday I joined other aviation journalists taking the new Lufthansa FlyNet service, powered by Inmarsat Global’s GX connect, for a joyride.
While there was an unfortunate interruption of service at the beginning of the trials, once the system reset, the FlyNet connectivity solution was very responsive. It was more than adequate to support what most passengers will want to do in-flight: working and staying up-to-date with events on the ground.
Quick side note: Lufthansa’s FlyNet city guides are available off-line, and were a nice way to spend time waiting for the internet connection to come back online.
Lufthansa specifies that—due to predominant passenger preference—the connection should not be used for VOIP (voice over internet protocol). This satisfies anyone worried about neighbours making calls onboard. But in the interest of science, I enjoyed a two-minute video Skype call home and had better image resolution and sound transfer than I often have on the ground. I was also able to send large images on Twitter and watch video clips from news outlets while catching up with world events.
EAN in Time
As with any connectivity solution—on the ground or in the air—experience will vary with more passengers accessing the system. But most will find there is little lag time, even for data-heavy applications. The system’s capacity is more than sufficient for everyday use, like keeping up with email, even when sending attachments.
Competitors in Europe will argue that they can match, or perhaps even better that performance. They may be right. But the combined European Aviation Network (EAN) Air-to-Ground/Satellite solution powered by Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom will deliver speed and seamless reliability.
What’s really remarkable about Lufthansa Technik’s work on FlyNet is the simplicity of the hardware installation. The systems are intelligently designed and kitted. This will make it easier for Lufthansa and other airlines to get their fleet online in a very competitive time frame. Getting those connected aircraft up and running quickly will also encourage passenger adoption.
Connectivity in the skies over Europe is welcome.
Some will point out that the ready availability of Wi-Fi connections in the Continent will mark the end of the peace and quiet of time spent “off-line.” No doubt, professionals will need to learn a new way to mark their private time and set boundaries with colleagues. But nothing beats being able to stay in touch whenever you need to and want to, even if you are in the air.
NB I was invited by Lufthansa Technik to join aviation journalists on a visit to their MRO facilities in Malta and Frankfurt, and for a first trial of the new FlyNet European connectivity services, powered by Inmarsat. Lufthansa Technik arranged travel and accommodations. My reporting of the event is independent.