SPEAKERS’ CORNER: The Advent of 3G Connectivity Inflight – by Pal Bjordal

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After the recent introduction of IFExpress’s new ‘Speakers’ Corner’ we were approached by Pal Bjordal, President & CEO of AeroMobile with a request to contribute to the feature. Pal wanted to give our readers a quick look at the growing inflight connectivity market with some data points that you might find interesting. So, this week we are providing our readers with AeroMobiles’ perspective of the future of 3G connectivity at 35,000 feet!

The Advent of 3G Connectivity Inflight
Pal Bjordal, President & CEO, AeroMobile

We’ve seen inflight connectivity grow in the past decade from fledgling roots to a point where most of the world’s major airlines are committed to it.

By 2020, we expect around 6,500 aircraft globally to be equipped with inflight connectivity services.

Passenger expectations have grown as inflight connectivity has become more readily available. We will soon be at a point where they expect to be connected in flight to the same degree that they can be on the ground.

Future planning is vital today to ensure our industry can meet the expectations of the passengers of tomorrow.

We’ll soon be seeing an important step change in that process when a number of major airlines launch Ku-band equipped inflight mobile connectivity.

With download speeds of up to 50 megabytes per second to the aircraft, the Ku service being offered by Panasonic Avionics Corporation and AeroMobile will give passengers enhanced inflight connectivity for the first time.

But we know that demand will continue to grow as we become a society that increasingly expects to download and stream large files from the internet on mobile devices as second nature.

That demand is being fuelled by ongoing developments in mobile devices, the rapidly expanding number of apps available, and the ever increasing amount of video content online which is being streamed.

In 2011, the average amount of data downloaded on a smartphone was 150MB per month. By 2016, this is expected to be 2.5GB per month – a 16 fold increase.

With Ku, we now have the satcom bandwidth in place to meet this demand – both now and with the capacity to grow in the future.

The next step forward is 3G connectivity inflight, which will enable us to use Ku’s bandwidth to its full potential. Ku is the only satcom solution in the marketplace that can handle 3G.

Upgrading the pico cells within an aircraft (which act as inflight mobile base stations) to 3G capability will herald a quantum leap forward in inflight connectivity. A 3G pico cell offers a download speed of 21 megabytes per second – which is around 60 times faster than the 2.5G cells currently in use. With multiple cells on an aircraft, the possibilities are extensive.

And the advent of 3G is coming faster than you might think. We begin testing early in 2013.

Together with Panasonic, we already have commitments from airline customers where 3G is part of the offering. We expect to be delivering 3G into full inflight operation in early 2014.

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And Now For Something Completely Different…

One way or another, the Microsoft-Apple battle touches almost everyone of us and an exchange of email between yours truly and AirCloud CEO, Gary Schmidt hit a resounding note. After pointing out a very relevant article on the subject of a new thrust by Microsoft to be ‘the new Apple’ Gary responded with an email that I thought our readers might like to see: “… they (Microsoft) are followers but sometimes the follower gets to reap the preponderance of the rewards.  If they are cheaper and they can layer in the mobile side of computing… it will be big (which they have done but it requires investment in new hardware).  Here’s the secret sauce though… Microsoft has Xbox which gives them a very “cool” factor that neither Google or Apple has.  With Windows8, Microsoft (for the first time in Microsoft history) has done integration points for email, calendar, contacts, etc. with services like Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn – huge.  In addition, Microsoft has cannibalized product lines like Outlook which are now integrated into the operating system.  Its really bold what they’re doing but the true test will be the execution which is where Microsoft traditionally fails…and fails miserably.” Interested? Read more here!

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