Japan Airlines will equip two government-owned Boeing 747-400s used to carry the country’s emperor and high-ranking officials with the Connexion by Boeing mobile information service, the vendor announced here yesterday. Installation is due to start next February.
Ed Laase, director of government and executive programs, said that the executive services version of Connexion by Boeing featured here (Booth No. 600) involves the same fundamental hardware used to provide the service to airline passengers and crew. Currently there are 125 commercial aircraft in service with the system, which is used on around 180 flights every day and is demonstrating the performance and reliability of a superior product, he said.
Among the attractions Laase listed is the fact that the Connexion services are available at very high latitudes so coverage on intercontinental routes linking Europe and the U.S. with Asia is “excellent throughout the flight.” Executive jet customers can receive direct broadcast television through the same antenna system, and in areas where there is no direct broadcast coverage they can fall back on the same live global tv service already offered to commercial customers.
“Global tv is unique to Boeing,” Laase said. “It means that even if you are going to somewhere like Russia where there is no direct broadcast coverage you can continue to enjoy tv reception.” The global tv service has been operational since January and provides access to BBC World, EuroNews, Eurosportnews, CNBC and MSNBC. “The service is available in all our satellite footprints, so people can stay connected to tv,” he added. “Only Connexion offers it in either the commercial or the executive jet world.”
Another service due to be rolled out this year is Executive Private voice. “It takes voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technology from the terrestrial world, using Cisco phones,” Laase explained. “And it’s a product with superior quality of service. We give priority to voice packets so the quality is equivalent to that of a wired connection on the ground.”
The system has been tested on the Boeing corporate BBJ, where Laase and other Boeing executives use it routinely, he said. “And it’s a carry-on product, it simply plugs into an RJ45 port so it allows us to keep the technology current with the terrestrial world. You just have to plug in new phone sets as they become available.”
That is a key difference between Connexion and satellite-based phone systems, Laase said. “But the real differentiator is that satellite phones use voice codecs at the lowest possible data rates. So on the best of them the speaker’s voice sounds clipped, and on the worst intelligibility becomes a problem. On our system you don’t have that because it’s a high-quality VoIP service.”
Best of all, Laase said, is that the phone access is part of the standard executive jet service offering. “There is no additional cost, so calls are essentially free,” he said. And where calls to satphone systems normally involve an international dialing code with a special prefix, the executive private voice service can be accessed through a Seattle-area number or through local numbers provided in other parts of the world.
So far Connexion has targeted high-end executive jets such as Boeing 767s and 747s and Airbus A340s. To date a total of 14 private airplanes, including U.S. government aircraft and a Boeing 747-400 operated by Kingdom Holding Company of Saudi Arabia, have been equipped to use the Connexion service.
However, there has been a growth in interest among the BBJ community recently, and Connexion started making proposals to BBJ operators.