Scott Hanselman

Surfing the Internet at 35,000 feet and the Death of Connexion by Boeing on Lufthansa

November 13, '06 Comments [7] Posted in Reviews
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The baby is fed, and he and Mo are asleep next to me. I'm in Row 24 on Lufthansa flying from Frankfurt, Germany to Portland, OR (we had a 14 hour layover in Frankfurt after flying in from Barcelona) and I'm blogging from the plane.

They've announced the end/death of this service but since October 1st, they are having a special deal right now where wireless 802.11 Internet from the plane is free. It's the last gasps of a doomed business model. The (at least, us) had a good run of nearly two years of wireless access on long-haul flights.

It's a fine service and a darned shame. It's a little slow on the turnaround time which makes sense given the satellites involved:

>ping www.hanselman.com

Pinging hanselman.com [66.129.71.242] with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 66.129.71.242: bytes=32 time=713ms TTL=104
Reply from 66.129.71.242: bytes=32 time=731ms TTL=104
Reply from 66.129.71.242: bytes=32 time=729ms TTL=104
Reply from 66.129.71.242: bytes=32 time=731ms TTL=104

...but once you get a download started it's not bad at all. I'm off now to download Office 2007!

I wonder if cell phone technology would ever work up this high? Was Connexion doomed because of timing or pricing?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Monday, November 13, 2006 11:55:51 AM UTC
Flying from Frankfurt to Germany? :)
davidacoder
Monday, November 13, 2006 4:12:07 PM UTC
I've no idea why it failed Scott, take up, or lack or may have been one reason.
I also read that it cost $100k per plane to install, which sounds crazy but that's likely to have hampered roll out. And if its true, who the hell was skimming off the top, and middle, of that deal?!

Connection cost would likely be expensed in most cases no?

Either way it's a damn shame, I think Boeing took a big step backwards discontinuing the service.
Monday, November 13, 2006 4:50:44 PM UTC
Pinging SatCom is not a sign of slow connection as the packets are bigger but in a big latency enviorement.
BTW I cannot believe you were going in Coach!
I was born in Barcelona, love that city, did you got your wallet stolen there?
Monday, November 13, 2006 5:46:20 PM UTC

Connexion was doomed because not enough airlines signed up for it to justify its cost.
The cost of installing it in an airplane, adding weight to the plane and other costs were too high.

Some airlines are also paranoid about installing third party electronic equipment thus increasing the likelihood of something going badly wrong. Remember the Swiss Air disaster a few years ago? Faulty onboard video equipment shorting causing a fire in the cockpit.

Cell technology for modem use, ok. For chatting, PLEASE NO.


abdu
Monday, November 13, 2006 10:54:59 PM UTC
Abdu - thats the reason I think cell technology won't work, or won't be adopted. Too many people worried about voice calls (count me firmly in that camp)

I like the idea of a 'cell bubble' in the larger planes ,but then you get into issues of large groups gathering which the airlines seems to dislike these days.
Perhaps this will be easier in the double-decker airbus (if it ever arrives) where they could have room to put a cell-phone lounge in.
I'm just not sure I want to pay the fees and still get crappy cell-phone download speeds.

Also, I still can't figure out why connexion was so expensive to install/sign up for. Were they using custom satellites or piggy backing commercial ones?
I somewhat understand the wiring risk, but you really think that could be a problem? A couple of routers and some cat5, or a single router with a leaky feed (some hotels use this in the elevator shaft). I just can't believe that kind of setup poses a large amount of risk and can be *that* expensive to install.

Weight wise it shouldn't be more than a few pounds plus whatever the satellite receive/send box weighs (which I have no idea about tbh).

It just sounded like they wanted to make all their money on the install side rather than the use side. But then justify the cost of use with the high install price! I suspect if they'd kept the cost low, and got a bigger rollout they'd have seen more use and possibly still be around.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 12:06:16 PM UTC
I traveled on a Lufthansa flight couple of times 2-3 months ago, and they announced the service each time, but when I got my laptop out, the air hostess told me that it is not working. That was a shame really. It would have been cool to be able to surf the net in the sky.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006 1:26:36 PM UTC
Scott,
I am reading your blog sitting in Row 24 from Frankfurt on LH.
BTW my connectivity is strong, stable and fast.
Satish Balusa
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.