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Wireless Internet Launched on Lufthansa FRA - IAD 223

Posted by chrisd
from the don't-let-the-pilots-surf-below-10km dept.
JpMaxMan writes "On flight LH 418 from Frankfurt, Germany, to Washington, DC, Lufthansa AG began on Wednesday a three-month trial for a new onboard wireless broadband service that allows travelers to connect to the Internet some 10,000 meters in the sky."
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Wireless Internet Launched on Lufthansa FRA - IAD

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:31PM (#5092213)
    Is that they go through all this trouble to prevent bombs getting on board, yet they act like the plane will crash if I have my CD player on during take-off. Heck, if it could, and I wanted to crash the plane, I'd just turn it on and leave it out of sight!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:23AM (#5092434)
      You, as well as most of the public, knows nothing about airplane systems or operations. Electronic devices are *MOST LIKELY* not going to cause the airplane to crash. What they may do is interfere with various navigation systems causing the airplane to go off course. This increases the time of the flight, which increases the cost, which increases the ticket price.

      Going off course also creates a safety hazard, in that the airplane may drift into the path of another one. HOWEVER, it is still unlikely that a crash will result as there is both a controller watching the airplanes on a radar (usually), and TCAS on the airplane (often airplaneS) in question which will alert crews to the danger. But you probably don't want to be a passanger when TCAS suddenly commands a descent.

      So you're probably not going to crash an airplane with your electronic device, you'll just piss a lot of people off, and the pilot could quite easily have you arrested, as it is a federal offense.
      • by fiftyfly (516990) <mike@edey.org> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:46AM (#5092494) Homepage
        "You, as well as most of the public, knows nothing about airplane systems or operations. Electronic devices are *MOST LIKELY* not going to cause the airplane to crash. What they may do is interfere with various navigation systems causing the airplane to go off course. This increases the time of the flight, which increases the cost, which increases the ticket price."

        Riiight, so we're told that environmental radiation on these flights is high enough to be an "occupational hazard" [hps.org] but rather heavily regulated devices in my pocket are going to be a problem for the plane's (hopefully) hardend systems?

        Bullshit.

        Yeah, I gues I could some items like cell phones/radios maybe eletric motors & other such devices that are very rf "leaky" but there's no way in hell I'm buying that story for, say, a cd player.

        I suppose there could be other reasons like "our insurance carrier will kill us if we don't take reasonable precautions to ensure that you at least pretend to pay attention to the (generally usesless - I mean wtf cares what you do if your plane smokes some field at 700km/hr?) safety notices, so please kindly turn the walkman"off". yeah I suppose I could buy that, but that's not what they tell you - they say some babble (and it's never really the same on each flight) about "being found to interfere with electrical systems" or "navigation systions" or "the plane's systems" and never once say anything meaningfull or cite a regulation, or give contact info for those with inquiries or complaints.

        • Yeah, I gues I could some items like cell phones/radios maybe eletric motors & other such devices that are very rf "leaky" but there's no way in hell I'm buying that story for, say, a cd player.

          The flight attendants have better things to do than to examine every portable electronic device on the plane to figure out which ones might be "leaky" enough to potentially cause problems. So they make the rule simple; if it's electronic, turn it off.

          ...but that's not what they tell you - they say some babble (and it's never really the same on each flight) about "being found to interfere with electrical systems" or "navigation systions" or "the plane's systems"

          Because if they told some other story, people would probably argue with them. And the truth is, any device *could* potentially interfere with the plane's systems. Unless you happen to carry around an RF meter of some sort with you (and good luck getting that past security ;) ), you have no idea how much or what kind of RF energy your Walkman is putting out.

          or give contact info for those with inquiries or complaints.

          You can probably contact the airline to inquire about any of their rules or procedures if you want. I'm sure they will be happy to explain them to you. There's probably an address or phone number on your ticket envelope.

          As for complaints...why? Unless a device is regulating some biological function neccesary for your continued existance as a living being, surely you can live without it for the 15-20 minutes it takes to take off and land. Just sit back, relax, read a magazine, say hello/goodbye to your neighbor, or find something else to do that isn't battery powered. ;)

          DennyK
          • you have no idea how much or what kind of RF energy your Walkman is putting out.
            WTF is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC [fcc.gov]) good for then, I wonder? Searching....
            The SAR [specific absorption rate] is a value that corresponds to the relative amount of RF energy absorbed in the head of a user of a wireless handset. The FCC limit for public exposure from cellular telephones is an SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram (1.6 W/kg). Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) for Wireless Phones and Devices Available at FCC Web Site. [Link:
            here [fcc.gov]]
            The FCC is in the process of providing consumers with information on human exposure to radiofrequency (RF) emissions from wireless phones and other devices through our Web Site in a "user-friendly" way. At the present time, this information can be obtained if you have the FCC ID number of the phone or device and if it was produced and marketed within the last 1-2 years
            The FCC ID number is usually shown somewhere on the case of the phone or device. In many cases, you will have to remove the battery pack to find the number. Once you have the number proceed as follows. Go to the following Web address: www.fcc.gov/oet/fccid.
        • by Maxwell'sSilverLART (596756) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @11:07AM (#5094825) Homepage

          cite a regulation

          My pleasure.

          14 CFR 121.306 Portable electronic devices. (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot in command of an aircraft allow the operation of, any portable electronic device on any U.S.-registered civil aircraft operating under this part.

          (b) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to --
          (1) Portable voice recorders;
          (2) Hearing aids;
          (3) Heart pacemakers;
          (4) Electric shavers; or
          (5) Any other portable electronic device that the part 119 certificate holder has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft on which it is to be used.
          (c) The determination required by paragraph (b)(5) of this section shall be made by that part 119 certificate holder operating the particular device to be used. (Source: Government Printing Office [gpo.gov])
          Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations governes Aeronautics and Space. Part 121 covers scheduled airline operations (parts 135 and 91 cover charter-type operations and all other operations, respectively, and have similar language).

          As for a CD player, or a computer, or any other digital device, it does have an RF oscillator: it's called a clock (as in "clock speed"), and most of them are poorly shielded, if shielded at all. Think about it--is your CD player's case made of metal or plastic? I don't feel like retyping (or copying and editing) my previous post on the subject [slashdot.org], but if you follow the link, you'll find a much more in-depth explanation.

          --Dave Buckles
          Commercial Pilot, Airplane Single and Multiengine Land
          Instrument Airplane
          Flight Instructor--Airplane
          Instrument Instructor
          2711311 CFII 06/04


      • Replace "may interfere" with "incredibly unlikely to interfere" and you've got it. The FAA is, quite logically, a paranoid organization.

    • Electronic interference was blamed for a explosion that killed 200+ servicemen on a carrier during Vietnam. A fighter fired some of its ordinance while sitting on the deck before takeoff. I don't know the exact name of the kind of interference that was involved, but it had something to do with not shielding some of the circuitry.
      • Electronic interference was blamed for a explosion that killed 200+ servicemen on a carrier during Vietnam. A fighter fired some of its ordinance while sitting on the deck before takeoff. I don't know the exact name of the kind of interference that was involved, but it had something to do with not shielding some of the circuitry.

        The interference was something called "big-freakin-bomb-exploding inteference", it generally happens when you fire weapons when you shouldnt.
  • by Blaine Hilton (626259) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:31PM (#5092214) Homepage
    I wonder how much this costs, and I'm assumming its satalite so does that affect pings for online gaming? Fragging from 10,000feet..........
    • Re:Cost and Speed (Score:3, Interesting)

      by targo (409974)
      I wonder how much this costs, and I'm assumming its satalite so does that affect pings for online gaming? Fragging from 10,000feet..........

      If it's anything like the phone service (really crappy line quality, >2 second delay) in most airplanes then you're lucky if you get something like 4800bauds from them. You'd better forget about gaming, porn etc. right away.
    • Re:Cost and Speed (Score:5, Informative)

      by mni12 (451821) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:01AM (#5092350) Homepage
      Beginning in 2004, the service will cost between 30 (US$32) and 35 per flight. Not bad compared to for example what T-mobile charges [t-mobile.com] at the airports.
      • Hmm, one month of hotspot service is about the same price as service for 1 flight, and that's "not bad"? Sheesh, wanna buy a volkswagen? It's about the same price as a Porsche - not bad, eh?

        D
      • by tempmpi (233132)
        One persons pays and setups a NAT for the remainder of the plane, would that work ?
        If you don't pay, can you still use the wlan to play some quake with other passengers ?
    • Beginning in 2004, the service will cost between 30 (US$32) and 35 per flight, it said. Passengers can use bonus miles as part of Lufthansa's Miles&More frequent flyer program to pay for the service, it said.

      Users will be able to download from the Internet at speeds up to 3M bps (bits per second) and upload, initially, at speeds up to 128K bps, according to Lufthansa. The upload speeds will later increase to 750K bps, it said.


      So sayeth the article, anyhow... ;)

      DennyK
    • As long as you dont drop any packets over an inhabited area...
    • 10,000 meters in the sk.

      What's that in cubits, please?

  • by sugardaddyano (515561) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:32PM (#5092217)
    does this mean i can finally join the solo mile high club?
  • great (Score:4, Funny)

    by Stanley Feinbaum (622232) <{moc.liamtoh} {ta} {2002muabnief_retsim}> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:32PM (#5092218) Journal
    I always enjoy surfing the net while high.
  • by thesupraman (179040) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:33PM (#5092224)

    It will be interesting to see how different countried react to this availability onboard - many countried are VERY paranoid about RF gear operating on an airliner due to fear of interferance with the onboard systems...

    Personally I'm quite suprised that this is a wireless solution, and not wired onboard, as that would seem a much more 'acceptable' solution worldwide, and quite probably more secure for individuals.

    I wonder how well seperated the network streams are between users? network sniffing count suddenly before very interesting ;)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The first class and business sections do have wired connections available. Adding wired connections is more expensive, so it'll be more limited. Also, newer laptops these days are likely to include wireless access, and you find very few desktop computers on planes.
    • It will be interesting to see how different countried react to this availability onboard - many countried are VERY paranoid about RF gear operating on an airliner due to fear of interferance with the onboard systems...

      The article forgot to mention the thousand miles or so of Cat5e running out of the end of the plane. :)
    • That might be why they trial it on the trans-Atlantic service, instead of, say, Europe-Asia - in a transatlantic service, most of the time the plane will be over international waters.

      Has anyone flown Lufthansa recently and can comment on their quality of service? Last time I heard they did not even have personal TV screens in economy class - which is why I stuck to Air France, edging out Emirates since the latter is very paranoid - no electronic devices *throughout* flight!
  • 3000/128 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    While it's better than my DSL connection, is it really enough to support up to 50 people? 3000/50 = 60, which is acceptable, comparable to dial-up. But 128/50 = 2.56! Ouch! If you've ever maxed out your upload while downloading, you'll know how it causes downloading to come to a crawl. I really think they'll need to seriously considering upping the upload speed.
    • To Blockquoth the article:
      "Users will be able to download from the Internet at speeds up to 3M bps (bits per second) and upload, initially, at speeds up to 128K bps, according to Lufthansa. The upload speeds will later increase to 750K bps, it said."

      It doesn't say whether it's shared on not, but I am pretty sure they have per-seat speeds in mind when it says 3M/128K. Otherwise, there wouldn't be enough bandwith left for the ACK pockets to utilize the 3MBPS downstream speed.

      Maybe they capped the upload speed to 12kb/s to prevent passengers from sharing stuff on Kazaa? Who knows?
  • Some day... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by seanadams.com (463190) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:36PM (#5092246) Homepage
    Eventually the Internet will become an essential service in any business that's open to the public: malls, airports, schools, bus stops... just like drinking fountains, walkways, and bathrooms.

    For the near future though, everyone is going to be trying to figure out how they can charge a few bucks a minute to let people with important business acces their $50/mo DSL line. I hope people just decide not to pay for these services. There's no reason why an airport/airplane/whatever can't afford to give access to a wireless AP just as a courtesy.I would definitely enjoy flying a lot more, and they'd get way more business from me by throwing stuff like this in for free.
    • Re:Some day... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It is "free" in that they aren't changing you extra to use it. It's included in the cost of a ticket. Kinda odd that they're bundling this into the price while America West is looking at charging people seperately for meals.
      • Re:Some day... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Patrick13 (223909) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @01:05AM (#5092548) Homepage Journal
        All I can say is that I hope that they have a relatively "techy" crew member on board, because 2 out of 5 people who bring their laptops to my cyber cafe have some sort of weird configuration kink that has to be worked out -- almost always people who have installed the AOL "virus" into their system. Once that POS is in a system it doesn't want to let go.

        Also, pre-OSX Macs have to have be manually configured, they can't be autoconfigured by the DHCP server.

        Granted, none of this is a big deal for your typical slashdotter, but I am talking about your average business traveler who doesn't know the windows control panel from that stupid blinking banner ad that says "WARNING - Your Computer is not optimized!!!" and then trys to install "Gator" when you click on it.

        If not, this is going to fail, because the flight is going to be full of pissed off business & first class passengers who can't get into their law office's exchange server.
    • Eventually the Internet will become an essential service in any business that's open to the public: malls, airports, schools, bus stops... just like drinking fountains, walkways, and bathrooms.

      My god, I must have fallen into some sort of trans-dimensional rift; I'M BACK IN 1997!

      /me runs off to buy stock

    • Eventually the Internet will become an essential service in any business that's open to the public: malls, airports, schools, bus stops... just like drinking fountains, walkways, and bathrooms.

      Dear God, I hope not.

      The pathetic freaks I see on my travels who can't wait to blackberry out some drivel or other to some other pathetic freak "back at the office" the moment the flight touches down aren't the power elite cognoscenti, they're ADDICTS. Society needs to view them with the same unflattering glances it usually reserves for the poor slobs "taking a break" sucking down cigrarettes in the pouring rain outside of office buildings.

      You wanna really get me going? Let's talk about the dweebs on their cellphones in the friggin' grocery store...

      Hey, wireless Internet access, that's great, more power to the carriers, sysAdmins, and Starbucks, God bless! But don't for a heartbeat pretend its "essential," don't equate it with drinking and going to the bathroom. That's just sad, and possibly deranged. What's next? "People have a 'right' to free Internet access?" Please, stop, stop now...

      More germane to this specific conversation, airlines should never consider making it "free" (i.e., included in the price of my ticket); it should be sold as an ancillary revenue generator, as are alcoholic beverages.
  • Well it's nice to see the bait and switch methds being used :) Realy this would be a boon to my travaling at least. Funny I wonder what the latency will be like and why they need such a big router to do the job. A 265x can run things wire speed to 100bt easly unless they have all sorts of things going on. Now I winder will they be handing out public IP space and what the SWIP will look like for that one :)
  • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:42PM (#5092267) Homepage Journal
    The RIAA and MPAA, building upon their already close relationship with law enforcement agencies, are lobbying to give armed air marshalls the power to shoot on sight anyone caught engaging in "terrorist activities" such as file sharing and unauthorised humming.
  • Commence the in-flight porn jokes...
  • PRICELESS (Score:5, Funny)

    by hckrdave (588951) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:46PM (#5092290) Homepage Journal
    Ticket: $200
    Cab to the airport: $12
    Drinks at then lounge: $30
    Watching porn @ 600mph feet all wasted: $PRICELESS
  • by stonebeat.org (562495) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:47PM (#5092296) Homepage
    from 10, KM high in the sky (in no man's territory), and be never convicted for it..... Next time i am travling on lufthansa, i am taking my 1 million email address CD with me.
    • 10km still belongs to the country that owns the land below it. From an international law standpoint, airspace goes all the way up.

      Even if you're on a ship in international waters, you're still bound by the laws of wherever you ship is registered.

      You'll also be restricted by the laws of whoever owns the connection you're using.

      Jason
      ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
      • how high do you have to get in the sky before it becomes no man's land (or sky in this case).....?????
        • here is some interesting info:

          http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a5_136.html

          arguably 90km, or as high as you want.

          BUT - IIRC on a plane (which is considered a "vessel" you are skill under the jurisdiction of the vessel's country of soverign - i.e. Germany; even though you are travelling through international waters.

          However, if you get on a boat and sail out to the middle of the atlantic, well - spam away! (not that it's encouraged)
  • by cyber_rigger (527103) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:48PM (#5092299) Homepage Journal

    Now we will see bums in their lear jets
    warflying in close formation to the airliners
    just to get the free internet access.

    :^)
    • How Warchalking Died [webword.com] -- "The purpose of this article is to explain how Warchalking has become obsolete. It is being replaced by Wi-Fi Zones that are being fueled by home networks, corporate networks, and even payphones. The internet will be all around you in all places but you won't ever need to care about Warchalking. Let's bury the idea and move along."
  • Question (Score:5, Funny)

    by Maxwell'sSilverLART (596756) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:54PM (#5092315) Homepage

    As a pilot, and an American, I just have to ask one question:

    What the hell is a meter?

  • by Jason1729 (561790) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:00AM (#5092341)
    Eventually someone will take their webserver along on the plane and then posts a Slashdot article about it. What happens when we slashdot an airplane?

    Jason
    ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
  • by Foxxz (106642) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:00AM (#5092348) Homepage
    Researchers have already bombarded commercial jets with all types of RF of many frequencies and varying power and found no flight threatening effects. This is due to heavely sheilded cables. The electronic device usage fear stems from cellular phone companies advising airlines not to use the phones in flight as they would have difficulting tracking the signal and the signal would reach many towers simultaneously. For the most part, RF is a non-issue. But still comply to keep the paranoid at bay.

    Private aircraft on the other hand is more effected by RF than their commercial counter parts. Cell phones and ham radios have been known to crash private aircraft.

    A recent story. A local car stereo business installed a TV and sound system in a private aircraft. The FAA was on that like stink on a hog. The equipment was not certified and threw out quite a mess of RF. Not to mention non of the cables were sheilded. Both the pilot and the company who installed the equipment were fined.

    I recently received the device that creates the high voltage needed to strobe the lights on an aircraft along with its timer circuit. The device oscilated 24v at high frequency through a transformer and was rectified into two capacitors at 600v. this was creating noise in the radio and the part was promptly removed.

    My father is a mechanic and supervisor for a private aircraft repair business. Thats how I get my info on the personal airecraft. I saw the commercial aircraft RF bombardement on Disconvery i beleive.

    -Foxxz
    • The electronic device usage fear stems from cellular phone companies advising airlines not to use the phones in flight as they would have difficulting tracking the signal and the signal would reach many towers simultaneously.

      I wonder how much of the ban on inflight cell phone use is also designed to force people into using (and paying for) air-to-ground phones installed on airliners.

    • Why the take-off restrictions on using laptops and other electronic devices?
    • I used to think the same as the original poster - that RF was a non issue, and simply allowed the aircarriers to charge more for services such as airFone etc...

      Now that I've spent the time and energy getting my private pilot certificate PP-ASEL (FAA standard etc...) I can tell you that the reason for not allowing 'personal electronics' on commercial aircraft during takeoff and landing is a very sound one.

      Commercial flights are always on IFR flight plans. This means Instrument Flight Rules. Thie does Not mean that the flight is being conducted in clouds or other IMC, but that the controllers can expect the flight to behave according to IFR rules.

      Now - IFR rules are there for a reason. One - primary navigation - if you have a plane going at any altitude above 18k feet, it has to be on an IFR flight plan, and be positively controlled (Read vectored/guided) by flight control. However, the pilots are still required at all times to avoid things like: Mountains. Many Many crashes, both commercial and private, are due to CFT - Controlled Flight into Terrain. This is when a pilot for reasons of pilot-error, or instrument error, flies a perfectly good airplane and passengers into a mountain or obstruction.

      Many airports in the US have large obstructions and mountains in the vicinity of their respective airports. Compasses - while very useful as a cross check, or for VFR day flying, have significant errors accross the US (many places as high as 15 degrees - such as the SF Bay area) - and hence are not always the primary tool - particularly when they show the aircraft heading and not course (with a crosswind, the aircraft is headed somewhat sideways with respect to it's ground course). They use the radio nav aids such as VORs, NDBs, VORTACs, etc...


      . There are also 'hidden' hazards such as military training routes that cover much of Northern California and Nevada - where if you veer off course by even a few miles, you could be subject to military intercept procedures, or worse: a midair with a heavy and well-build military aircraft (which often slice thru civilian aircraft). To Sum Up: Unless you want your commercial flight to end up in a mountain, I suggest people don't play with this or treat it litely.

      Interference with radio navigation signals is soo easy, that in a recent safety seminar held in Oakland - a flyer was presented that emphasized IFR hold zones - zones simply to keep waiting aircraft an additional distance from the runway and landing guidance ILS/other radio services.
  • by Cyno01 (573917) <Cyno01@hotmail.com> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:12AM (#5092390) Homepage
    You cant even talk about Bombs in an airport, now we're gonna have dorks on planes yelling about their FPS game, "Score, i just got the rocket launcher!!". As if the skymarshals dont have their work cut out for them, now they have to sperate gamers from terrorists.
  • If FAA is relaxing rules to allow passengers to use 802.11b transmitter while flying, there are some possibilities to get cellphones approved for flights as well. I hate when flight attendants ask you to shut down your cellphone upon departure...
    • The rules on cellphones have nothing to do with potential RF interference with the instrumentation. Imagine, if you will, thousands of cell phones, thirty thousand feet up, each connecting to dozens of cells. The reason they ban cell phones on airplanes is because it just wreaks havoc on the cellular network (which in many places is overburdened as it is).
    • As pointed out elsewhere, cell phones are designed for a different environment. It is assumed throughout the design of terrestrial radio systems that you will only be able to contact one cell tower using a certain carrier frequency. The cells are laid out in a repeating pattern. If you are 'in' a cell, you are talking to it over a particular channel. All the other cells that are adjacent to YOUR cell cannot use that channel, because you are using it. BUT, move two cells away and you can reuse your channel for another person. Cells are about (let's guess) 800m to 1 km on a side.

      This all works really well until you ruin this assumption.

      Now, fly at 10 000m (33 000ft) and look at the same system. You are almost the exact same distance from the cell under you as the cell next to it and the cell(s) next to those ones. So, who does your phone talk to?
      It fights it out and talks to many cells, or just one, but you are now interfering with many other cells, using up a huge amount of the mobile providers capacity.

      In effect, this is a DOS attack for all those cells that you are not really using, but who can still hear your carrier on the channel.

      There are other problems with trying to use a mobile phone on an aircraft. At 10 000m, you are 10km (~6 statute miles) from the base station. That's pretty fringe. Especially for a low power digital-mode radio that has a maximum output of around 300mW RF.


      No, I don't think you'll see mobile phones on aircraft any time soon.
  • by originalhack (142366) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:14AM (#5092403)

    This finally proves the assertion that the reason for the ban on in-flight electronics was to protect Airfone and in-flight movies from competition and had nothing to do with RF interference. Now that the airlines found a way to extract revenue from this, suddenly spread-spectrum RF signals are perfectly safe.

    Turn off your cellphone please. And put away that gameboy.

    It's hard to feel sorry for the struggling airlines when lie as much as they do.

    • So I accidently left my cell phone on during one flight, so just out of curosity I checked the service level and there was no service. Don't know if this has any point, I just thought it was interesting...
    • The wireless is the satellite to the plane...inside there is one wired ethernet connection for every 1st class seat, and one for every two business/coach.

      802.11g? maybe later....
    • There's a difference between interference from J. Random PhoneCo's RF signal, and the lack of interference from a tested and certified RF signal.

      Someone else posted that commerical planes are basically shielded against all forms of RF disturbance. That may be true, but it's not a certified result, afaik.

      They tell you to turn your equipment off during takeoff and landing because that's when there will be insufficient time to respond by telling everyone to turn off their possible sources of interference. At 20k+ feet, you have some time to detect the problem and get on the intercom to correct it.

      Boeing, not being pikers, have certified their system for use during flight. That isn't cheap. It's rigorous testing of the sort /.ers never get to see, being stuck in a world of commercial and open-source software. So the service will not be cheap.
    • This finally proves the assertion that the reason for the ban on in-flight electronics was to protect Airfone and in-flight movies from competition and had nothing to do with RF interference.

      Uh, how much revenue to airlines make from in-flight movies? I mean, how does competition even enter into the equation?

      As for the phone thing, bah. The revenue stream must be tiny; I've never seen anybody use one except me, and it wasn't that expensive.

  • Power outlets? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by intermodal (534361) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:33AM (#5092458) Homepage Journal
    Let's see some power outlets...I hate how my laptop runs at 1/4 speed off the battery. Then there's long flights to Japan, and the fact that my particular wireless NIC drains my battery way quicker than I care to admit...
  • Incredible (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bigberk (547360)
    This is amazing. Think about how far technology has come, that allows you broadband internet access on an airplane 35,000 ft high, travelling between two continents over nothing but water.

    Holy crap.

    I know the very first thing I would do, without a doubt, is fire up XMMS and listen to Digitally Imported Radio [www.di.fm], and smile :)
  • by Tuxinatorium (463682) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:53AM (#5092514) Homepage
    They give you great meals (especially for airplane food), free wine with your dinner, and movies playing all the time. And that wasn't even in first class. It's so cushy, no wonder they're the first to implement that wireless internet on a passenger plane.
    • While good food is a premium, most (in fact, all) the airlines I've travelled on offer free wine and movies. Incidentally, surfing the net on air as been attempted already; Singapore Airlines once invited a journalist to file his article while travelling from Singapore to San Francisco. And, the last time I flew Swiss, they had a blurb saying that they'll introduce internet in a few months (this was in May 2002). Guess it hasn't taken off (to use a bad pun) so far.

  • by dracocat (554744) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @01:09AM (#5092558)
    Great... I wonder if I can use Voice over IP! Seems like the connection is fast enough on the download side at least.. Although I would hate to see 60 people trying to make a phone call on that 128K uplink.
  • Literally.

    Joking aside, this is a good start. My question: Can the aircraft so equipped serve as relays?

    Best news: "Connexion by Boeing faces competition from other companies, including Tenzing Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., which are pushing their own narrowband onboard systems. Competition sure is sweet.

    Man Gets 70mpg in Homemade Car-Made from a Mainframe Computer [xnewswire.com]

  • ...Jackass to hook up to the internet on MS Flight Simulator and pretend he's flying the plane he's on...

    I think this is interesting though... a weird little community in the sky... IM'ing buddies throughout the 13 hour flight... Checking current news or seeing what's going on in town... Or god forbid maybe get some work done... I also think the price is right too. What does everyone else think about $32 for a transatlantic flight? Would that make a cross country flight $15 maybe for cross country sound reasonable?
  • Power Cord? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Prof.Phreak (584152)
    Does that imply they'll actually have a place for me to plugin my laptop??? With these fast processors, batteries only last a little over an hour (if even that), and on a long 6-9 hour flight, well, you get the idea...

    AND, unless you're first class, there is no way they'll let you plug it in anywhere; unless you go to the rest-room and sit there for an hour to charge the damn battery.
    • Re:Power Cord? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by motox (312416)
      Lately in economy class your lucky if you have space for your knees, never mind a laptop. And the difference to travel in business ( at least in inter-continental flights) is far too ludicrous, i can pay one year of high speed internet once i landed ;)
  • Rendezvous (Score:3, Funny)

    by TracerJPN_USMC (623396) <`pj.en.ten-ynnus' `ta' `gjnotnroht'> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @02:19AM (#5092735)
    Just imagine the possiblities for all the apple users.. load up ichat and look for Rendezvous contacts on the same flight! Maybe you could hook up with a female type you never would have talked to before.
  • by belbo (11799) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @03:21AM (#5092904)
    this cartoon [heise.de]

    (For all you German challenged people out there, it reads: 'New device found. Device: Airbus A310. Start automatic configuration?')

    b.

  • So, who is going to organize the worlds first flying WLAN party from Munich to New York and back?

    Kristian
  • by MyHair (589485) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @04:36AM (#5093098) Journal
    Popup ads aimed at airborne websurfers:

    <flashing> Your aircraft may not be optimized!!!!
    [ OK ]

    Seduce flight attendants FAST!!
    [ OK ]

    Your might be in danger from TERRORISTS! Find out who is on your plane.
    <link>Consumer/Credit reports

  • Given phone calls on planes are horrendously expensive (I think it was $US1 - $US2/minute last I checked), and the prices for this are (as another poster quoted) approx. $US35/flight, seems like a good use of VOIP: make a phone call from your PC.
  • Noone else has seemed to say this yet, and you all knew it was coming

    First war dialing
    then war driving
    now war flying!

    I think wired would be more practical, but wireless does have it's advantages, I just hate the damned dongles (drools @ powerbook). How do they control who can use it? Do they give out a different WEP key or whatever?
  • Since they have been releasing all this hype about how wireless is a security threat as a terrorist tool, now they are putting it on aircraft. Well,if they are using wireless to hide their identity, at least we have the subjects narrowed down to being on a particular aircraft. They'll only have to weed through a couple hundred passangers to find the culprets.
  • One detail left out (Score:3, Informative)

    by HRH King Lerxst (79427) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @08:14AM (#5093591)
    The broadband service is providec by Connexion by Boeing [boeing.com] (sorry it's got flash), the Boeing news release can be found here [boeing.com].

    Here's the text from the Boeing news release:
    ABOVE THE NORTH ATLANTIC, Jan. 15, 2003 - A new era in inflight communications began today as commercial airline passengers experienced inflight broadband Internet access for the first time. Passengers aboard a Lufthansa German Airlines Boeing 747-400 were able to use their personal laptops and ones provided by the airline to gain high-speed connections to the Internet, including full access to their personal or business email accounts and files. They were able to attach files to their outgoing emails or open attachments from incoming emails, get the latest news, look up information about their destination or shop online. The service, which Lufthansa has branded as FlyNet, is powered by the revolutionary Connexion by Boeing system developed by The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA). During the three-month demonstration, Lufthansa will make the service available free-of-charge to passengers throughout the airplane, which flies daily between Frankfurt and Washington-Dulles International Airport as flights LH 418 (westbound) and LH 419 (eastbound). "With broadband connectivity, the Connexion by Boeing service gives travelers new and unprecedented choices for managing their time in flight and on the ground," said Connexion by Boeing President Scott Carson. "Lufthansa is widely recognized and respected as a leader in innovation, in communication and in customer service, and is demonstrating to its passengers today what the world of tomorrow will be like. Our collaboration with Lufthansa has resulted in the shared vision that has made this historical service available today." "The very idea of FlyNet was exciting, but what really inspired me was the enthusiasm, the professionalism and the stamina of our team during its implementation. Innovation with the customer in mind has resulted in today's world premiere," says Wolfgang Mayrhuber, Deputy Chairman of Deutsche Lufthansa AG. Lufthansa, the inaugural commercial airline customer for Connexion by Boeing, intends to equip approximately 80 long-range Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A330 / A340 jetliners with the Connexion by Boeing service capability beginning in mid-2004. About Connexion by Boeing Connexion by Boeing is a mobile information services provider that is bringing high-speed Internet, data and entertainment connectivity to aircraft in flight. The service currently is available to the executive services market in the U.S., which includes operators of private and government aircraft. The three-month service demonstration with Lufthansa begins in January 2003, followed one month later by a three-month service demonstration with British Airways, scheduled to begin in mid-February. Japan Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) also have announced plans to equip longer-range jetliners in their fleets beginning in 2004. For additional information, visit the Connexion by Boeing web site at www.boeing.com/connexion.


  • If we can pause from the "mile high" jokes for a minute...

    This Lufthansa flight and the British Airways one that starts between JFK and LHR on Saturday use the Boeing [connexionbyboeing.com]. This technology is very different than the one being touted by Airbus. For one, the Connextion is up and running.

    Airbus tapped Tenzing [tenzing.com] of Seattle to create a system which periodically connects to the net to upload/download email update a few webpages stored on a server aboard the aircraft. That's right, it's not live access to the net. Connection speeds for the Tenzing solution are slower than most dialup connections.

    So whats the difference? I'm guessing Tenzing is using the same technology as airphones, while Boeing is probably using a newer satellite technology (they have a satellite division [boeing.com])

  • Ok

    How long before someone brings a laptop loaded with an IRC server on it? After all they say that they are using 802.11b technology to provide the service in the cabin. Now what's from people with those cards not just firing them up in 'ad-hoc' mode and running a private network with IRC or UT2003 server? That could make a plane ride really interesting.. you can talk about who's sitting next to you (and how bad they smell) or about that cute girl that's 5 rows up. Planes are so anti social, this could make a trip interesting.

    Then again someone with some talent could then either spoof or steal service. Who's to going to charge you with anything, it's out of all gov't juristictions as someone claimed (akin to international waters). Then again, someone with two wireless devices can collect $10 from a few people then proxy the service out of the one laptop.. ahhh.. bandwidth sharing..

    just thoughs.
    • How long before someone brings a laptop loaded with an IRC server on it? ... you can talk about who's sitting next to you (and how bad they smell) or about that cute girl that's 5 rows up.
      You could chat on IRC using an existing ground-based IRC server (if it doesn't require identd). You don't need your own to do this.
  • the service will cost between 30 (US$32) and 35 per flight

    So how do I get on the network without paying?
    (Yeah, I know immoral, possibly illegal, but a cool project...)
  • Marketplace (Score:3, Informative)

    by hether (101201) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @12:47PM (#5095704)
    Marketplace [marketplace.org] had a cool report [marketplace.org] on this yesterday afternoon that the reporter recorded as an MP3 file from the flight.

    In the report he indicated that on first try his laptop didn't connect, but that Lufthansa had three connection specialists on the plane and were able to get him running within 5 minutes. Apparently the plane was full on reporters and other testing it out, so the connection was a little slower than is usually expected.

    The thing that hit me was that they would charge up to $30 extra to use this feature. That might not be a big deal to business passengers, but I'm not sure the average person will appreciate that extra fee on their ticket.

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