IFE & CONNECTIVITY UPDATE An A319 aircraft with the radome installation completed for Inmarsat’s GX Aviation service
Faster, smarter, better With the inflight entertainment and connectivity needs of airlines and passengers continually evolving, the development of advanced solutions has become an ongoing effort for suppliers — one that requires the newest and most sophisticated equipment and capabilities by
hile there seems to be no end to suppliers’ efforts to develop more advanced connectivity systems, the goals of their potential customers remain much the same: enhancing the passenger experience and possibly improving revenues by installing the latest versions. So, while airlines are still looking for opportunities to elevate the passenger experience and capitalize on new revenue streams, and passengers continue to expect an IFE and connectivity offering comparable to the same services received on the ground, suppliers are gearing up to deliver smarter, faster — and altogether better — systems. At this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo, established companies and newcomers to the industry will be talking about an old challenge, but tackling it with a new array of equipment and capabilities. Leader and pioneer of mobile satellite communications, Inmarsat, understands the importance of having the right connectivity services available to both passenger and crew. “The right connectivity services can give passengers control over their own entertainment and improve daily offerings and procedures, from providing online duty free with goods people can order on their phones or tablets, to facilitating last-minute travel plan changes,” says Frederik van Essen, Inmarsat Aviation Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development. From an operational perspective, van Essen adds that effective connectivity systems — such as those on offer from Inmarsat — can equip pilots with real time updates to increase safety, optimize fuel consumption and provide on-the-ground teams with real-time diagnostics, thus reducing delays. “They can also strengthen the security of flight deck communications and enable more flights to be in operation at any given time,” he adds.
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But the ‘right’ or most effective connectivity comes at a price, and oftentimes, the price does not always match the quality of service. “Passengers and airlines are getting very frustrated by the poor service offered by many inflight connectivity providers and from having to pay a high price for that level of service,” says Mary Rogozinski, Vice President Airlines at SmartSky Networks, a next-generation aviation communications provider. “Airlines are looking for IFC service providers to partner with to offer fast, reliable and affordable inflight connectivity with a cost-effective business model for the airline,” Rogozinski adds. Fast service in particular, seems to be the feature that passengers value the most when it comes to connectivity, followed by cost. “It’s always a conversation around more bandwidth,” says Edward Popek, Sr. Director of Marketing at Astronics AeroSat, designer and manufacturer of airborne Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) SATCOM connectivity solutions. “Passengers want faster data speeds, like at home, at cost effective prices (preferably free). The connectivity industry debate is whether to offer connectivity for free and cover the cost in the ticket prices, or to charge the user per use. No one answer appears to be right; each airline will choose the model that best fits their passenger experience strategy.”
Seamless solutions GX for Aviation from Inmarsat is the world’s first global, high-speed inflight broadband service from a single operator. It provides, reliable, seamless coverage, offering an onboard connectivity experience that compares with Wi-Fi services available on the ground. The technology allows airline passengers to browse the internet, stream