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Wireless Networking The Internet Hardware

In-Flight Wi-Fi Makes its Debut 336

Posted by simoniker
from the fly-by-wi-fi dept.
mindless4210 writes "German airline Lufthansa will become the first carrier to provide Boeing's Connexion service to its passengers. The service will be unveiled on May 17 on non-stop flights from Munich to Los Angeles, with plans to outfit their entire fleet over the next year. Passengers will be able to purchase access using their credit cards and Wi-Fi enabled laptops. The cost is set at $30 for the entire flight or $10 for 30 minutes."
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In-Flight Wi-Fi Makes its Debut

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  • by baudilus (665036) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:04PM (#9110014)
    mid-air LAN party!!
    • by Otto (17870) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:06PM (#9110051) Homepage Journal
      I really don't want people yelling out "Look out for the rocket!" during my flights, personally.
    • Re:Whole new world.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by frenetic3 (166950) * <houston@nOspaM.alum.mit.edu> on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:09PM (#9110096) Homepage Journal
      Anyone know what the latency (ping times) would be on the Connexion service? Would it be like satellite (hundreds of ms?) (I know parent was referring to the plane's LAN in which latency is negligible, but what about communications to the rest of the world?)

      -fren
      • Re:Whole new world.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by baudilus (665036) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:15PM (#9110187)
        from the CBB FAQ (currently /.ed):
        What is the Connexion by Boeing service infrastructure?
        * Airborne system: airborne antennas, airborne servers, routers, and associated wiring.
        * Ground system: network operations center, associated satellite uplink and downlink equipment, and business operation center.
        * Space system: leased satellite transponders.
        It looks like they do use satellites, but they also seem to have ground NOC's and antennae. They don't say which is used for what, but it's safe to assume that it won't be as fast as my optonline connection :D
    • by NanoGator (522640) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:13PM (#9110153) Homepage Journal
      "mid-air LAN party!!"

      Finally! Geeks can join the Mile High club! Too bad it won't have the same significance...
    • Re:Whole new world.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shakrai (717556) on Monday May 10, 2004 @05:06PM (#9110697) Journal

      mid-air LAN party!!

      I'm sure your just joking around to get your +5 funny FP but in all seriousness why would you pay Lufthansa $30 to have a mid-air LAN party? If you wanted to have a LAN party (not a bad idea on a eight hour+ flight -- I'd do it if I had a few friends tagging along with me) and they allow Wi-Fi on the plane then why not setup your own Ad-Hoc network that doesn't cost you anything? Unless you need access to the Internet (which you won't for a LAN Party) why give them the money?

      That's a pretty interesting idea too. If they are going to allow you to broadcast in the 2.4Ghz range on the airplane then they can't refuse to let you do this. Could be interesting on those long flights. Now your only problem is how long your battery will last :)

      Another (slightly evil) idea would be to have one person buy the Internet access and then share it with the rest of his buddies using a second wireless NIC and the aforementioned ad-hoc network. I wonder if they'd get peeved if you did this? Kinda doubt they'd find out but what's the worst they could do? Boot you off? Something tells me that the crew has better things to do then monitor the Wi-Fi network to make sure you aren't sharing it.

      • Something tells me that the crew has better things to do then monitor the Wi-Fi network to make sure you aren't sharing it.


        LOL, that would be some funny job, network admin for trans-continental flights. Where can I apply? You get to fly to exotic places and meet cute stewardesses. ;-)

  • Wink wink (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:04PM (#9110015)
    Does this mean that us nerds can now join the "mile high club"?
  • Plane 2 Plane (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SirChris (676927) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:04PM (#9110017) Journal
    Any use for plane to plane communications? quickly sending your vital stats, etc. or just as a log of who you have passed.
  • by Sv-Manowar (772313) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:05PM (#9110027) Homepage Journal
    Can't wait till someone acidentally starts controlling the plane with MS Flight simulator
    "Pull up!, Pull up!"
    • by Soko (17987) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:34PM (#9110383) Homepage
      Captain: Ummm... Where did you say we were?
      Navigator: My instruments read that we're over LAX.
      Captain: Then why the FUCK are we over Hawaii?
      Navigation Screen: *LOL, d00dz! U R too dumb t00 n0t uze W1|\|d0z3 on ur navsystems!! hanhan, surfs up!!!*

      Soko
    • by Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:43PM (#9110462)
      Can't wait till someone acidentally starts controlling the plane with MS Flight simulator

      You mean *Crashing* the plane don't you

      Either

      • Microsoft Flight Simulator has encountered errors and needs to close
      • or...
      • Microsoft Windows XP has detected a new device (plane) and is unable to find a driver for it
      • Can't wait till someone acidentally starts controlling the plane with MS Flight simulator
        You mean *Crashing* the plane don't you

        Microsoft Windows XP has detected a new device (plane) and is unable to find a driver for it

        That's simple to fix. Just click the "Check airport bar" radio button.
        Even XP should be able to find a driver/pilot in there!
  • feels strange (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chuck Bucket (142633) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:06PM (#9110034) Homepage Journal
    I used to look forward to flights because it gave me time to get lost in a book while sipping some whiskey. now I'll be answering (and dealing with) crap from work? I'm not sure if I'll do this; some times you just can't reach me (this is why all of my phones are off when I'm asleep).

    CVS
    • Re:feels strange (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TopShelf (92521) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:24PM (#9110284) Homepage Journal
      Sad days, indeed. Instead of the old, "coffee, tea, or me?" it's become "coffee, tea, or 802.11b?"

      It would seem our priorities are getting seriously out of whack.
    • I used to look forward to flights because it gave me time to get lost in a book while sipping some whiskey.

      First time I ever flew overseas company paid (Sydney, Australia to Denver, CO) I got stuck into the Jack Daniels. By the time I arrived in LA I had 15 of those little plastic bottles (empty) in my the sick bag, and I was starting to feel a bit ordinary. (No. I have no idea why hanging on to them seemed like a good idea).

      Going through LA immigration sux at the best of times, but when coming done into

    • I'm not sure if I _CAN_ do this... I can't remember the last time I was able to open up my laptop so that I could use it when I last flew coach... there just wasn't the room.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:06PM (#9110035)
    ...before we start hearing horror stories about sitting next to sketchy guys who are checking out pr0n on the plane?
  • before someone finds a way to hack this Wifi security and EVERYONE flying uses it without cost?
    • Re:How long (Score:5, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:12PM (#9110139) Homepage Journal
      put two wifi cards in your laptop and run an open "ap", and everyone with you (or optionally, everyone) can use the service for the price of just you.
      • Every webpage they serve will be in a frame, with all the credit card info of the person who paid for the service at the top.

        Ok, I made that up, but it would be a good deterence.
    • Just a little bit before the company discovers they're not making any money, and closes shop.

      $30 seems a bit pricey, but you've got to figure that a large chunk of it goes to the airline to install and maintain their equipment and give them exclusive rights to the captive audience, then the cost of the technology itself, and then the bloated profit margins everyone seems to expect from WiFi. What kind of content can I get that justifies $10 per half-hour?

      What I'd like to see is the landline ISPs and 3G ca
      • And another thing:

        How long before someone who never used the service sues Lufthansa over exposing them to microwave radiation?
        "I was boiled alive all the way from Munich to LA in their aluminum tube!"

        Don't believe me? Fall asleep with a laptop with an 802.11g connection next to you on your bed, and tell me you don't wake up with a headache...
        • Re:How long (Score:3, Interesting)

          by another_henry (570767)
          I've fallen asleep every night (more or less) for the last six months since I got 802.11g with my laptop right next to my head on my bedside table. I don't wake up with a headache.

          Microwaves do not [nih.gov] cause biological damage unless you have hundreds of watts of them, and that's just heat.

          It's really not physically possible. The frequency is too low to cause any ionising effects, leaving the only possible effect as heating, and I think that you get much more heating from say the hard drive in your lapto

  • by linzeal (197905) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:06PM (#9110055) Homepage Journal
    Will have a moving target now, this ought to be fun. Maybe we will see cessnas darting in and out of 747 flight paths to get free internet access, right?

  • Interference (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RobPiano (471698) * on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:07PM (#9110063)
    I would love to have wifi on a long flight and $30 isn't completely unreasonable for a flight from Germany to California. This is all fine, but can someone explain to me if we can have wifi on a flight, why can't I have my CD player turned on when the plane first takes off? I've never understood how a CD player could mess with their equipment very much, but I can imagine wifi being a bit of a problem...
    • by k2dbk (724898) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:12PM (#9110144) Homepage Journal
      I've never understood how a CD player could mess with their equipment very much...
      I once asked why, and was told that they don't want you to not be able to hear any announcement that might be made during those "critical" times.
    • Re:Interference (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Its much easier to explain to the general populus that NO electronics can be used during take off, as opposed to explaining a whole list of items that can't be used.

      • Its much easier to explain to the general populus that NO electronics can be used during take off, as opposed to explaining a whole list of items that can't be used.

        Except those people who ask how to turn off their digital watch.
    • by UrgleHoth (50415) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:16PM (#9110201) Homepage
      I get around this restriction by bringing aboard my trusty old victrola.
    • 1) They want you paying attention since takeoff and landing are the most likely times for a problem. If there is one, they want you to hear instructions.

      2) Just to be extra safe. A properly operating CD player should generate basically no EM field, but why take the chance? Maybe someone has a jacked up unit. I can't think how you'd do it but rather than worry about it and try to make a list of exceptions, they just ban them all and are done with it.
    • The CD player will have some sort of CPU, and that CPU is driven by some sort of clock. They are worried that that clock, or some harmonic of it, will interefere with a frequency that the pilots need. Two things to note:

      - the cd player isn't an intentional transmitter, but it'll probably leak RF noise (especially if it has a plastic case)
      - a lot of the frequencies planes use are older and lower-frequency. AM radios are at 1.6 MHz, FM radios are at 100 MHz -- all exotic frequencies for processors 30 years,
    • They can't charge you for your CD player
  • by jridley (9305) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:07PM (#9110065)
    I can see people who don't want to pay for the connection sniffing someone's traffic, then cloning their MAC address and surfing for free after the guy switches off.
  • pr0n! (Score:3, Funny)

    by joda (124489) <<es.paksnukdro> <ta> <sungam>> on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:08PM (#9110075) Homepage
    wohee, now i don't need to wait for the hotspots in arrivals ...
  • It sounds like a reasonable price, especially if it aids productivity, but what I'd really like to know is (1) how much the service costs the airline versus how much they stand to make from consumers and (2) how fast will it be (802.11b? g?)

    I didn't expect to be able to find the pricing, but I did expect to find some sort of speed rating, which I haven't been able to locate.
  • VoIP (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:08PM (#9110078) Homepage
    What are the odds that VoIP ports are either blocked or the latency makes it unusable? The airline industry has put quite a bit of effort into explaining why Airphone is The Only Right Way to talk from a plane.

    "Ladies and gentlemen, we must ask that you not use your laptop as a phone over the internet as it... may cause cancer."
    • Re:VoIP (Score:3, Informative)

      VoIP over port 80. Unless they're monitoring traffic for specific packets (not just blocking ports)... then again, I have a feeling that these planes won't also be equipped with a sysadmin and Packeteer. Then again... that would explain the costs.
    • What about bandwidth concerns? I'm sure whatever satellite pipe they're using wouldn't support every user on the plane on Vonage, Kazaa or someother such bandwidth-hogging service.
    • I had to make a call on one once, because my flight couldn't land at the destination airpot and I didn't want my fiancee to try driving through the snowstorm to pick me up.

      It took about 10 attempts to get it to work, the instructions were inaccurate, when something went wrong it just produced a random tone... when i actually got it to work the call was so noisy I could hardly make out a word she said.

      Worst $10 call ever... fortunately that was a lufthansa flight, so next time i'll just email.
      • It took about 10 attempts to get it to work, the instructions were inaccurate, when something went wrong it just produced a random tone... when i actually got it to work the call was so noisy I could hardly make out a word she said.

        Worst $10 call ever...


        Next time that happens, call your credit card company and reverse the charges due to "service not as advertised". Lufthansa (or whoever provides the service) will then have to eat the cost of the call. If more and more people do this, it'll force them to either drop the service (due to chargeback costs) or improve the quality.
  • Is this going to be a totally free service, or will certain sites be "blocked off"? I expect to see a marked increase in the number of passengers arrested for indecent exposure. Or even better, over the loudspeaker: "Passenger in seat 17E: Keep it in your pants. Thank you."
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just interviewed there about 2 months ago for an IDS system. It was currently put on hold (after the interview process btw), but from what I hear they have an IDS guy leaving or switching roles. If you live in seattle and don't mind working down by boeing field, would be a cool company to work for. Usually they're looking for CISSP / GIAC's. From what they told me, this should be rolled out to a huge consortum of airlines by the end of 2004. Will be interesting to see how this roles out, as another company
  • Flash vs. no Flash (Score:5, Informative)

    by Big Nothing (229456) <big.nothing@bigger.com> on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:10PM (#9110105)
    A Flash-free website with information on Boeing Connexion can be found here [connexionbyboeing.com].
  • Airport panic (Score:2, Insightful)

    I myself am used to editing my talks while on the plane and in flight access to the databases that I use will be of great help. Can't wait to get this. Something else though - I'm wondering about in flight information. You can usually get really up-to-date weather info and so on during the flight. I can imagine a scenario where flyers with wi-fi access will know of bad weather and, possibly, impending disaster before it's being announced by the captain (who usually won't announce impending disaster anyway).
  • It's Mac Compatible. [connexionbyboeing.com]PDF, sorry. (Unfortunately, there is a step 3.)
  • I see this as a good way for airlines to make more money. Having recently flown Frontier and enjoyed the 22 (or so) channel satellite TV service (that I paid a nominal $5 charge for - and was free until after take off) I welcome many options like this for the airlines. I do admit that $30 is pretty steep for something like this. I'm not a penny pincher by any means, but I would find it tough to cough up the cash for this. I would, however, easily plunk down $15 for this service.

    I'm also happy the airlines have been increasingly moving towards charging for inflight meals as it's something I've thought they should have done long again. Instead of everyone, no matter if you're hungry or not, getting plain awful food, those who wish to pay a reasonable price actually get good food.
    • service will be unveiled on May 17 on non-stop flights from Munich to Los Angeles,

      Missed the length of the flight. $30 for that flight is a good deal. $10 for 30 minutes on the other hand... that's pretty steep.
    • $30 isn't unreasonable at all, even if you discount the length of the flight. When you think about it, nobody really *needs* to surf the web or check their email in-flight. For those that really do need to due to business reasons, etc. the $30 is simply the cost of doing business. Or if you need to arrange a time to meet with family or arrange transportation, the $10 for 30 minutes option will save everyone tons of time and is certainly worth it as well.

      From a consumer perspective, $30 is equal to a ful
  • $30? (Score:3, Redundant)

    by sulli (195030) * on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:17PM (#9110219) Journal
    Who will be the first to set up his laptop as an access point as well as a client, to share it?
  • One nice feature of it will be being able to go to trip.com and find out where you actually are. Of course this is only uselful on planes which don't have the in seat displays where you can select the inflight map anytime you want to.
  • by Danathar (267989) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:36PM (#9110398) Journal
    Bah...

    I'm getting decent speeds by taking three airphones (three seat wide section) and using a uunet dialup account to bind all three together using ppp multilink. I just charge the airtime back to my company!

    I tried to use more phones from the passengers seats infront and behind me....but the cords are too short! DAMN!!

  • by Angostura (703910) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:37PM (#9110411)
    Given that each seat already has a myriad of cabling going to it, I simply can't see why they've opted for WiFi connectivity - other than as a gimmic.

    After all I guess 90% of laptops have Ethernet ports, and what - 40% have Wifi?

    So they have a smaller potential audience, plus the issues of RF engineering, interference, security, contention etc.

    So gimmic it is, unless anyone has some better ideas.
    • by mean pun (717227) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:56PM (#9110599)
      Given that each seat already has a myriad of cabling going to it, I simply can't see why they've opted for WiFi connectivity - other than as a gimmic.

      Two good reasons are weight and maintenance. All that extra wiring may be a small fraction of total takeof weight, but why waste it, when you can get paid for air freight or burn less fuel? Also, keeping all those connectors functioning is much harder than keeping a wireless access point running.

      Oh, and installing all that wiring would require a lot of expensive maintenance time, whereas installing a wireless access point is fairly simple.

  • Some answers (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I worked in support for these guys last year while they were in beta with BA and Lufthansa - very, very cool setup let me tell you.

    A few of the questions I can answer, mind you these may not be the most current stats:
    - speed is like broadband, but they will not specify the exact bandwidth. feedback from 'consumers' was positive, they said it was like home dsl or cable
    - VoIP worked. It was done between passengers on the plan itself as well as to/from the ground. Say goodby to $10/min airtime!
    - no ports were
  • Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wowbagger (69688) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:38PM (#9110423) Homepage Journal
    OK, to do security one must think like the bad guys. So let us put on our black hats for a moment.

    Only fairly well off people will fork over $30 to feed their Internet addiction - most of all the super-type-A types who cannot tell the difference between "being busy" and "being productive".

    Most of those people will be running Windows, probably Win98 or WinXP.

    So, if I just sit back, wait for them to get their mail, sniff the password they use for email, and then use that password in an attempt to access their computer, I will probably get right in.

    Then I can Trojan their machines (for later access to the inside of whatever corporate network they use), download their My Documents folder and desktop, and see what I can dig up.

    The beautiful thing about this is that I have every excuse to be close to these people for extended period times, then I get off the plane and go my own way, never to cross the guys path again. /me removes black hat

    Gosh, I am SO glad I am not in IT management....
  • I work for the company that worked as the technologypartner for Lufthansa (Burda Digital [burdadigital.de]) and it's great to see that this is literally taking off finally. I wasn't directly affected to it but still it makes me proud that this story made it to Slashdot. ;-)
  • 10$ for 30 mins? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:42PM (#9110457) Homepage Journal
    Isn't that a bit high? Seems like its expensive to just check your spam, err email..
  • You may only use your laptop if you can disable your wireless connection.

    I call bs, good thing i never turn off my wireless or my cell phone.
  • ...Addressed with Corporate Revenue Enhancement Technology (TM)

    Glad to see the outrageous hazard cellphones and other RF transmissions pose to airplane avionics is handily mitigated by the application of cash.
  • Check the Luftansa timetable... there's only one nonstop from MUC to LAX each day, and it's on an Airbus A340.
  • What's the point? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) <john@oyler.comcast@net> on Monday May 10, 2004 @04:57PM (#9110616) Journal
    Wouldn't 100baseT be more appropriate? A single cat5 jack in the backs of the seats, and no worry that if someone switches to 802.11g instead of 802.11b that the plane's navsystem will hiccup.

    Wireless is for me sitting out in the backyard and websurfing, or walking around the worksite with my iPaq. It's not that great of a replacement for wires, it's for doing what wires never could. Duh.
  • I'm just waiting for Qantas [qantas.com.au] (crash free since...well...forever) gets this on their 747-438 Longreach [qantas.com.au] crafts. They're already putting in AC and PC power outlets [qantas.com.au] for business class and progressively moving them backwards to accomodate your myriad of consumer electronics. Since my wife is Australian, when we fly back and forth it'd be great to have Wi-Fi to pass the time. The first 4 hours of the flight are interesting, but somewhere around hour 12 of the 14.5 to 15 hour flight to Sydney, you really think about opening a window for entertainment value.

    Cross country I can see just wanting to have some booze and relax, but after that, it'd be nice to do something constructive.

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