The Wall Street Journal reports that the efforts by Lufthansa, Panasonic Avionics, and others to have a transition plan in place for Connexion's demise are delayed: Panasonic made the surprise announcement a few months ago that they were considering launching a Connexion successor which would use a lighter-weight set of gear (less weight = less fuel) and a smaller antenna (less drag = less fuel) that would allow them to charge less and also push a lot more bandwidth over the same Ku band satellite connection. They would also have a much lower transponder bill in their formulation. Boeing isn't involved in this successor effort, but is supportive of the notion.
The Journal says that despite the involvement of Lufthansa, which has the most planes in the world equipped with Connexion gear, and the participation of satellite operator SES and Connexion integrator ViaSat, that they still can't get a deal together. Because of unspecified "financial and regulatory complications," the timetable is now stretching into 2008, if the various interested airlines and partners can pull it together even then.
My research into the costs of in-flight broadband using the alternative Inmarsat fourth-generation satellite network--two of three satellites launched so far--has made me think that unless a Ku band solution can be developed, we won't see anything like inexpensive broadband in the air via satellite and not outside the Americas. It's just too expensive. Mobile phone calls will travel over Inmarsat's links because of the potential high per-minute calling rate and the low bandwidth required relative to almost any purpose that requires the Internet.
In the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, AirCell will likely be able to deliver a cost-effective air-to-ground broadband system. They pushed back their launch date from potentially late 2007 to early 2008 a few months ago. AirCell has a US spectrum license, but believes they can negotiate with the other countries involved for an extension into their territories, as Verizon AirFone did with their service.
The costs for AirCell are enormously lower than they were for Connexion because no satellite leases are involved, and the equipment is substantially less. An article at CNN today mentions AirCell and Connexion when talking about Emirates Airlines expected January 2007 launch of in-flight mobile phone use via an onboard picocell. Emirates will use OnAir's system.