Gogo Video + successful AIX as connectivity proves to be king (again)
I was sorry not to be in Hamburg this week, for the plethora of connectivity and IFE announcements that swept through my inbox. Sounds like it was a truly exciting show. Luckily my friends at Gogo, Thales, Inmarsat, Panasonic, Rockwell Collins and the mighty Global Eagle Entertainment kept me updated from afar.
Gogo is gearing up to unleash its new (and bigger) Boeing 737 test plan, “Jimmy Ray,” named after the company’s visionary founder. As I was lucky enough last year to be part of Gogo’s first ever All Access Day, and witnessed a demo of Gogo’s next generation technology, the firm kindly shared this video of Gogo’s newest flying lab outfitted with the latest systems with me, which it says will bring peak speaks of over 70 Mbps to the sky. Stay tuned for updates on the new plane and technology.
Thales says that the IFEC world faces three key challenges at the moment.
- A growing global fleet and the growing demand for IFEC systems on single aisle and shorter routes
- A more tech minded passenger requiring higher levels of technology interaction at all times
- Intense competitive pressure for airlines to differentiate their brand and foster brand loyalty
The firm estimates that by 2025 70% of the global fleet will be equipped with in-cabin connectivity. Over the last two years every airline request for proposals has included a form of connectivity. A maturing market is driving down costs, which is opening up new segmenting opportunities in areas like low cost, single aisle and shorter routes. Consequently, Thales says, “ Airlines no longer accept IFE to be a static cost centre, they want a positive branding and marketing tool to drive customer retention and direct monetisation. With the integration of Thales IFEC and LiveTV we were able to bridge the gap on all these market needs.”
Rockwell Collins unveiled the latest iteration of its PAVES Passenger Services System upgrade for air transport aircraft. The lightweight, low-cost reading light and cabin crew call system with optional USB charging port for personal devices is a direct replacement for existing systems that are less compatible with modern in-flight entertainment (IFE) system upgrades.
“Passenger service systems are a necessary component to an IFE upgrade; it’s not just about installing new servers and video monitors,” said Greg Irmen, vice president and general manager, Flight Controls and Information Systems. PAVES is a scalable solution for older in-service aircraft that are facing IFE obsolescence. It is compatible with any overhead IFE upgrade available for the market and is among the lowest cost options available.
Panasonic Avionics, too, is galloping ahead with its connectivity installations, 12,000 of which will be flying on narrowbodies over the next 10 years and 4,000 on widebodies. The company admits that it will be stretched to meet the installation and support capacity. China Southern Airlines is to be launch customer for its eXO system, in 54 Airbus A320s and A321s being delivered from early 2016.
Meanwhile, the show yielded plenty of antennas announcements. Inmarsat and Kymeta offered a new design of electronically scanned antenna that will they say will allow for greater amounts of information transmitted from satellites to aircraft.
It’s two years away, and will be used by Inmarsat’s GX Aviation satellite network, two of which are already in orbit, with the third completing the constellation in the next couple of months. A fourth is due for launch next year. It has no moving parts, therefore is “more reliable” than mechanically scanned according to Kymeta.
Cobham Satcom has installed and begun testing the first of its Aviator satellite communication systems on Hawaiian Airlines’ Boeing 767-300s. The company’s Aviator S terminal and antenna product family enables ACARS data messages to be sent via Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband service. Cobham has also started deliveries of 150 of its Aviator 1200SP SwiftBroadband connectivity systems to AirAsia.
GEE unveiled a new lightweight broadband antenna for in-flight connectivity, which it says is the first on the market to offer “truly global” Ku-band satellite coverage at all latitudes. The firm has co-developed the antenna with QEST.
The antenna is mechanically steered with three-axis technology, which GEE says enables it to provide “more reliable worldwide coverage” than two-axis, flat-panel products. It can fit into existing radomes, and is available as a line-fit option “from day one” delivering speeds of over 100MB per second, according to technology chief Aditya Chatterjee. Installation takes three days and a retrofit would take even less time. The antenna is slated to be ready for delivery by mid-2016.
The famous Crystal Cabin Awards went to B/E Aerospace, Embraer, SABIC Innovative Plastics, SII Deutschland, ViaSat, Etihad Airways and Hamburg University of Applied Sciences.
B/E won the “Greener Cabin, Health, Safety & Environment” category for its “Solar Eclipse” concept. A thin solar cell film is installed in the sun visor of the cabin window, providing passengers with electricity to charge their electronic devices during flight. Although the system is still under development, the manufacturer is already working on achieving production approval soon.
“Passenger Comfort Systems” went to ViaSat for its satellite-powered “Exede in the Air” system, which brings a 12 Mbps internet connection to every seat, allowing passengers to stream films or shop online.