Cathay Pacific has already promised that it would bring 50Mbps in-flight broadband to some of its fleet by 2012, but it looks like Boeing has beat it to the punch to become the first to actually take the service to the skies. The company has just announced the first certification and installation of Panasonic Avionics' eXConnect in-flight internet service in one of its Boeing Business Jet 737 aircraft, which will initially be used by Panasonic itself for ongoing testing and demonstrations. That's the same system that will be used by Cathay Pacific, and consists a fuselage-mounted antenna that communicates with a network of satellites to deliver speeds of up to 50Mbps, or about a hundred times faster than most competing in-flight WiFi. Unfortunately, there's still no word on any further expansion to commercial aircraft, so Cathay Pacific may well still wind up being the first in that respect. Full press release is after the break.
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High-Speed Broadband System Certified on Boeing Business Jet

ATLANTA, Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing (NYSE: BA) Business Jets today announced the first certification and installation of Panasonic Avionics Corporation's in-flight wireless high-speed broadband service, eXConnect, on a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) 737 aircraft.

As part of the installation agreement, Panasonic will use the privately owned BBJ for ongoing testing and validation, as well as for live demonstrations. The system supports a wide range of passenger and crew applications including very high-speed internet access to passengers anywhere in the world at speeds of up to 50 Mbps to the aircraft. That's about 100 times the speed of the fastest Internet currently available on airplanes.

"The eXConnect system installed on the Boeing 737 continues to exceed our expectations, and we are very excited to show customers, OEMs and other groups the true broadband experience made possible by our Ku solution," said Paul Margis, Chief Executive Officer, Panasonic Avionics Corporation.

The fuselage-mounted antenna communicates through a global network of satellites and provides higher data rates than tail-mounted antennas traditionally used on business aviation aircraft. The BBJ is ideally suited for carrying a larger and more capable antenna than traditional sized business jets so global coverage is possible.

"Since its introduction to the market, the Boeing Business Jet has always provided something more than the traditional corporate jet manufacturers have been able to provide - more space, more comfort, more productivity and more utility," said Boeing Business Jets president Steve Taylor.

"Panasonic's new high-speed data system opens up a new capability to our customers that will help satisfy the growing need for passengers to be connected all the time, including in the air," said Taylor.

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Boeing installs 50Mbps eXConnect broadband on 737