As always, the job of the IFExpress Team is to interview vendors at the popular IFEC Shows and report to our reader, and this year is no different. In three days (and in three consecutive issues) we hope to give our readers a view of what people said about their products and perhaps explain the “spin” in a useful way. We hope you find it interesting and worthwhile.


Linstol

For years now, we have passed by the earphone folks at Linstol and so this year, we decided to stop and talk with Peter Woolhouse and Jakob Levinson about their new products. Besides colorful new products we got interested in their Noise Cancelling Headset (Model 250) and tested the unit with our iPod. We note that the unit has a couple of features we really liked. First when placed over our ears, the product almost completely canceled the show floor noise when turned OFF, which means a good mechanical fit. Amazingly, music still played through them when turned off! No battery worries here. Then we turned them on and the Model 250 increased fidelity (and presence) and cancelled even more noise! Secondly, it’s rechargeable through a mini-USB connector on the bottom of one headpiece – 5 volts. We remember up to 14 hours of continuous usage with one charge. Nice job Linstol! Airlines can get the Model 250’s with modified individual color and logo applications on up to 7 of the headphone parts, all for around $30 a pair. Check them out. (Editor’s Note: We note that even with 32 ohms impedance, the efficiency provided ample loudness.)


Panasonic
Two big stories accentuate the Panasonic presence at the show in Anaheim.

Ku-band narrow body antenna roll out: Oddly enough, Panasonic has teamed with Boeing Network & Space Systems (N&SS) for their new electronically steered phased array antenna designed (primarily) for narrow body aircraft (2. Image). The flat planed phased array antenna consists of a transmit and receive array situated next to each other in the horizontal reference plane. And you guessed it; the antenna design contributes to perhaps the lowest Ku-band antenna drag profile in the industry (2.7” or 6cm high). Also, it is important to note that the shroud around the antenna itself could be designed to fit: Boeing and Airbus narrow bodies, as well as, business jets. Also, we were told that the antenna is ARINC 791 compliant. The antenna will be available in 2016, and with their existing Ku-band mechanically scanned antennas they can cover any fleet of aircraft. Furthermore, if you are too young to remember Connexion by Boeing, it was launched and in service in the late 90’s to early 2000’s on Lufthansa but never gained in popularity – most likely due to cost at the time – but their engineers know how to design antennas and we suspect that’s why Panasonic chose them. With the burgeoning single-aisle market and the demand for more passenger connectivity, this market will grow! Watch this product.

NFC: EMV compliant Near Field Communication technology is being developed within Panasonic’s inflight entertainment systems. The system will be launched in 2015 because you will probably see NFC enabled smartphones and cards being used in flight. Here are some of the features of this service: high value transactions and purchases, personal data synchronization, frequent flyer status via NFC card/phone – gold card advantages, crew check-in is now available via NFC, Passenger specific information pushes are now available, and it will now work with the iPhone 6. With increased hacking and fraud issues, this is a must technology for aviation. One airline told us an unbelievable dollar scam they encounter each month but asked us not to reveal the amount or the airline. With NFC, scamming is now pushed down one notch and as a result, bigger purchases are doable. We expect this feature to end up on all Panasonic IFEC systems.

Cool Room Update:  You know how we like the Panasonic “Cool Room” and every year Steve Sizelove outdoes himself on getting the latest, and we mean LATEST technology, to show how it and innovation might affect the IFEC industry. Here’s a clue from this year’s room – Oculus Rift. You will have to wait till a future issue to get an update… the Panasonic Cool Room will be the subject of a future Hot Topic!


AeroMobile

AeroMobile’s Kevin Rogers told us the following:

“Today 270+ aircraft are installed. The installation rate is 5 – 6 planes per month and this number is expected to grow over the next 12 months.”

“Panasonic is the sales arm for the AeroMobile service”, he noted.

“The Panasonic announcement about the single-aisle Ku-band antenna will have a significant impact on the market, primarily because of the narrowbody applications and the services required in China.”

“Panasonic’s Ku-band hardware allows the AeroMobile telecommunications operation, and in fact because of coverage and availability, AeroMobile should be considered a virtual country.”

“AeroMobile has 270 roaming agreements today, but all are handled/billed by the company.”

“Interestingly, the only 2 countries where there is a service gap are in the USA and China. China has their own frequency standards and the USA has other issues, as we are all aware of.”

“80% of users of phones in the aircraft don’t use voice – they just use text and data. This emulates the usage on the ground.”

“The service is very popular especially in business class, partly because it is so easy to use.”


Thales

Big news at Thales is the acquisition of LiveTV from JetBlue. The addition of two familiar faces, Glenn Latta and Mike Moeller (as well as others), appeared as part of the Thales team at APEX. While we suspected that the org chart was presently in flux and yet to be worked out, Dominique Giannoni and Glen Latta wanted to discuss strategy and how the LiveTV acquisition dovetails with the growth and support development of the entire IFEC package from Thales. The attached two charts (link) pretty much tell the story. Chart 1 has all the Gee Wiz information you need, from the point that Thales IFEC is 15 years in operation to the fact that they have 1,700 aircraft flying in all major platforms, including 200 with Ka-band connectivity.

Chart 2 is perhaps the most significant. Not only does it frame Thales based on functionality, it shows what the strategy for the company and is probably the most significant part from the company’s perspective. The $400 million purchase appears to be a hand-in-glove fit because of LiveTV’s in-depth connectivity capability matches perfectly with the Thales IFE offering. Glenn Latta is the President of LiveTV a wholly owned subsidiary of Thales USA reporting to and he and Dominique Giannoni, CEO IFE&C. Together, they are shaping what is becoming a significantly changed business. Perhaps the best quote comes from the team when they said, “Look at it this way, today Thales has 1,815 people focused on IFEC. Both sides, Irvine and Florida, are leveraging their strengths and are looking at each project customer by customer, so integration of the two companies is well under way.”

Additional observations about the merger of the two companies based upon our interview were:
1) The strategy behind the merger with LiveTV was three fold: the need for a strong connectivity add-on, a strong retrofit business, and entry into the low cost market.
2) LiveTV can now leverage the line-fit experience with the retrofit experience. This is a very broad offering to the airline.
3) The acquisition of LiveTV brought Thales: Wi-Fi in the cabin, a back office, a front office, transaction process, and a portal.
4) LiveTV brought Thales 700 aircraft flying of which 200 are flying with Ka-band connectivity and a backlog of 250 aircraft to be fitted with Ka.
5) 50% of the LiveTV engineering team is software, and as a result, the employees have the ability to adapt to either organization.
6) Both LiveTV and Thales brought content to the table. They are now looking at leveraging these groups and are looking at the offerings on a customer-by-customer basis.
7) Dominique Giannoni told us that key area of development is to improve airline operations through connectivity.
8) The philosophy behind Thales/LiveTV is that everything is based upon the strategy not necessarily the product as a result of this corporate blending.
9) In the words of Glenn Latta, “It is an opportunity rich environment.”


Inmarsat

We met with Leo Mondale, President Inmarsat Aviation who will be a new focal point for Global Xpress, and a good one at that.

We thought it best to start off with a definition: Global Xpress is a super-fast, Ka-band broadband satellite network from Inmarsat that will provide worldwide (almost) coverage with three geosynchronous satellites.

During our interview we asked a few questions to give our readers a better view of the system. Here a few of the salient issues:
1) One satellite is up today and the other two will be deployed by mid-2014.
2) Aviation will experience up to 20 Mbps data rates down and 30 Mbps up.
3) The first satellite covers the coast of the UK to portions of Asia. See attached and is in orbit today. We note that it is a spot beam satellite that has 89 distinct beams, as all will have. Because the spot beams provide continuous coverage over its footprint, it is possible to manage the data traffic as the aircraft travels through the beams
4) Today’s current Inflight Connectivity does not emulate the ground experience; however, the newer generation of users will demand more from their airborne connectivity experience and Global Xpress hopes to fill that need.
5) Three ground stations (with redundant features) will deal with live, rain-fade issues.
6) The first customer for Global Xpress was Vietnam Airlines via Gogo, Thales and Honeywell.
7) When the third satellite is up and operating there will be very few commercial air transport routes that Inmarsat doesn’t cover.
8) Global Xpress Service was announced in June of 2010 and the first satellite build happened on time.
9) Leo Mondale stated that if it were not for launch slides Global Xpress would be in service today.
10) With the exception of the North Atlantic, maritime and aviation routes don’t tend to overlap.
11) The industry has accepted Ka-band and there are very few questions about its capabilities anymore. The first customer was the Military and they have been interested in Ka-band for the last 10 years.
12) “We are at the beginning of a massive capacity and infrastructure increase, all in alignment with our decision in 2010 to launch Global Xpress service. We are excited to be part of the wave!” Leo Mondale


Some Final Notes

New Berlin, WI | August 30, 2014– EMTEQ, a B/E Aerospace Company, has developed a solution for a standalone Passenger Service System – allowing the removal of the IFE while maintaining individual passenger flight attendant call and reading light control. This installation allows for significant weight savings for airlines that do not need IFE systems in their aircraft, but still want to maintain the features of the passenger control units.

This system consists of EMTEQ’s CTS200 LRU to replace the IFE head end unit, Signal Processing Node (SPN) to replace the seat LRUs, and updated Passenger Control Units integrated in each seat. The EMTEQ Passenger Service System integrates with the aircraft’s existing cabin system, providing minimal installation and operational impact to the customer.

  • First one millionth personal electronic device (PED) worldwide to connect via Ka-band satellite broadband in the air
  • JetBlue’s Fly-Fi usage significantly higher than on any other U.S. airline

New York | September 23, 2014– JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ: JBLU) today celebrated its one millionth customer connect to its high-speed Fly-Fi system, also making JetBlue the first airline worldwide to connect one million personal electronic devices (PEDs) to true broadband Ka-based Wi-Fi service. To celebrate, the 140 customers onboard “CONNECTED TO 01000010 01001100 01010101 01000101”, JetBlue’s Fly-Fi livery aircraft, were rewarded with a total one million TrueBlue points on its first flight today from New York’s JFK International Airport to San Diego International Airport.

“JetBlue’s Fly-Fi is far superior to other U.S. airlines’ in-air Wi-Fi offerings. The number of customers using Fly-Fi also greatly exceeds the rate of other airlines’ customers, who are forced to pay exorbitant prices for a slower connection, whereas Fly-Fi is available for free. On JetBlue we see 40% of customers logged on, while other airlines get single-digits only,” said Marty St George, Senior Vice President, Commercial.

JetBlue launched Fly-Fi, the fastest Wi-Fi among all U.S. airlines, last December. Fly-Fi offers broadband speed via Ka-band satellite using satellite-to-aircraft connectivity rather than the ground-to-aircraft connectivity, or Ku-band, the many other U.S. carriers offer. Fly-Fi is currently available on 70 aircraft, with an additional 10-12 aircraft being Fly-Fi enabled each month. The entire JetBlue fleet will be Fly-Fi installed by the end of 2015. JetBlue is now the only airline in the world to offer free live television at every seat and free high-speed Wi-Fi. JetBlue was also the first U.S. airline to offer gate-to-gate use of personal electronic devices (PEDs), as of November 2013.

During fourth quarter 2015, JetBlue will launch a new Fly-Fi Portal, which will serve as a content hub where customers can access a wide range of movies, television shows and additional content from their own personal devices.

Thales LiveTV provides JetBlue’s industry leading Fly-Fi connectivity system including the customizable portal and support services to deliver the At Home in the Air™ experience. “Thales LiveTV is proud to provide JetBlue’s Fly-Fi connectivity experience for all customers simultaneously. We have seen more than 148 connected passengers on a flight which proves excellent capability and demand for JetBlue’s latest, most advanced onboard service,” said Glenn Latta, President of Thales LiveTV.

JetBlue and Thales partner with satellite provider ViaSat, the broadband provider for Fly-Fi. “JetBlue is unlocking the true value of our Exede in the Air with a market approach that enables all passengers to access true broadband Wi-Fi in the sky,” said Don Buchman, VP Exede Mobility. “This milestone of hitting one million users so quickly is a testament to what is possible when you can deliver a high-capacity throughput service that passengers really want to use.”

• Fly-Fi is currently available on 70 JetBlue aircraft
• 10-12 aircraft a month are being equipped with Fly-Fi
• Fly-Fi will be available on JetBlue’s entire fleet, which will total 210 aircraft by end of 2015
• One millionth Fly-Fi logon 10 months after launch
• Speeds of 12 Mbps – 20 Mbps per customer
• Average user spends 40% of their Fly-Fi session streaming music or video
• 66 terabytes of data have been downloaded

  • World’s first full deployment of open standard beacons across an entire airport

Atlanta, GA | September 24, 2014– Miami International Airport is the first airport in the world to have a complete and open deployment of beacons. SITA, the IT provider to the air transport industry, announced that there are now beacons registered and available to users via the SITA Common-Use Beacon Registry which cover entrances, check-in, gate, baggage claim and valet parking zones throughout Miami International Airport. Each beacon broadcasts its identifier in the zone and this can be used by airlines, retailers and other partners’ apps to trigger useful content to passengers or staff.

Maurice Jenkins, Division Director, Information Systems, Miami International Airport, said: “The passenger experience at Miami Airport is our number one concern and iBeacon technology allows us make it even better. We have installed beacons throughout the airport and made them available to all our stakeholders. Now we invite airlines and our other partners to invent new ways to make the passenger experience at Miami even better. With our beacons, they can now give passengers relevant information on their phones at every point of their journey through our airport.

“Working with SITA has made it easy for us to do this quickly – onsite deployment took just two days. And by using the SITA Registry, it makes it simple for us to collaborate with our partners, both domestic and international, and let them take advantage of this new technology too. Airlines that fly to Miami are already working on their apps so passengers will start seeing the benefits very soon.”

Jim Peters, SITA Chief Technology Officer, said: “This is a fantastic move by Miami International and a great model for the industry to follow. By installing the beacons and registering them on the SITA Common-Use Beacon Registry, the airport has set the standard for being truly open and collaborative with its partners.

“Miami has made it easy for airlines, and other partners working at the airport, to take advantage of iBeacon technology and provide information that is relevant to the passenger’s location or stage of the journey. And of course, it is not just for passengers; beacons can be used for staff notifications and to beam operational information – such as temperature, noise levels, vibrations, etc – from throughout the airport to allow efficient operational management.”

Beacons offer great opportunities for airlines and airports and by collaborating and working openly the industry can implement this new technology in a consistent way that will allow efficient use, across all airports and airlines’ networks around the world.

Miami Airport’s beacon zones are in operation throughout the terminals, skytrain and car parks to allow way-finding to be offered on passenger’s phones. SITA Lab, the research team at SITA, has already tested the beacons with mapping technology which has proved hugely successful. All of Miami Airport’s beacons are open and available via the SITA Common-Use Beacon Registry so any airline, retailer or other service-provider at the airport can make use of these right away.

For more information on beacon technology and how it can be used today by airlines and airports read SITA’s research results and check out the SITA Common-Use Beacon Registry.

Los Angeles, CA | September 23, 2014– Global Eagle Entertainment Inc. (Nasdaq: ENT), a worldwide leading provider of content, connectivity and digital media solutions to airlines, today announced that its customer, Nok Air, has officially launched its free inflight connectivity solution. Satellite connectivity is provided through Thailand’s satellite leader, Thaicom PLC.

Nok Air today became the first airline in Asia to offer passengers free inflight WiFi connectivity. The airline views free broadband Internet access as a value-added service for its passengers to enhance their travel experience.
Nok Air is the first airline to benefit from a partnership between Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) and Thaicom Public Company Limited (Thaicom). In addition to Nok Air, GEE and Thaicom will jointly develop, implement and support inflight connectivity solutions for airlines in Thailand and the surrounding region.

“We’re very excited to be the first in Asia to offer free inflight WiFi to our passengers on top of our other free services. This is a testament to our promise of being proactive in bringing new and innovative services to our passengers. Inflight WiFi will provide our passengers with a whole new travel experience, as they can still connect to what is important to them at 35,000 feet in the air,” stated Patee Sarasin, CEO of Nok Air.

“We are very pleased that Nok Air has confidence in Thaicom’s In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) broadband service and we also appreciate the support from our partner, GEE, to jointly deliver the inflight connectivity solution,” added Suphajee Suthumpun, Chairman of the Executive Committee and CEO, Thaicom PLC. “This cooperation has empowered Thaicom to provide inflight connectivity to Nok Air’s passengers and this service is the first time in Asia to enable state-of-the-art inflight connectivity through hi-speed broadband on Ku-band. The service will provide Nok Air passengers with a superior inflight broadband experience and Thaicom is confident that the inflight connectivity service will create an added value to Nok Air and a more enjoyable experience for its passengers.”

“We’re thrilled with the launch of another customer as we bring market-leading connectivity and content solutions to Nok Air and its passengers,” said Dave Davis, Chief Executive Officer of Global Eagle Entertainment. “We believe our satellite connectivity service, which operates both over land and water, provides the optimal solution for Nok Air, which has many flights on over-water routes to vacation destinations. Supported by our partnership with Thaicom, we remain focused on further expanding our presence across the growing South East Asia region.”

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates | September 22, 2014– Sharjah International Airport, home to Air Arabia, one of the Middle East’s fastest-growing low cost airlines, has selected SITA to provide its AirportConnect Open passenger processing technology for another five years.

SITA’s AirportConnect Open is the only platform capable of providing an integrated approach to Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE), Common Use Passenger Processing Systems (CUPPS) and Common Use Self-Service (CUSS) kiosks, hosted on one platform. This global-leading technology ensures the most efficient use of the airport to process passengers by allowing airlines to use any self-service kiosk, agent desk or gate position for passenger check-in, bag drop, and boarding.

With SITA AirportConnect Open, Sharjah International has common agent-facing facilities throughout the airport. SITA is supplying 230 workstations for check-in and boarding, double the number the airport had when it first introduced common-use.

Tony Smith, General Manager, Sharjah Aviation Services, Sharjah International Airport’s ground handling agent, said: “We always aspire to make travel as easy as possible for Sharjah’s customers, and SITA’s common-use has been a huge success for us and the airlines at the airport. We have become accustomed to SITA’s ability to deliver services which make the most sense for our airport. We look forward to this continuing over the next five years.”

Hani El-Assaad, SITA President, Middle East, India and Africa, said: “Sharjah International Airport is a long-standing SITA partner, and we are glad that its team has shown their confidence in our solutions with this five-year extension. This fast-growing airport has seen a dramatic rise in the number of passengers being processed over the last decade, and SITA’s services have ensured that the airport has continued to use the most up-to-date technology available.”

Sharjah International has been a SITA partner since 2003 and is the third largest airport in the United Arab Emirates, processing more than 7.5 million people a year.

Almost every airport and airline in the world does business with SITA. They are supported 24/7 by SITA’s global team of IT professionals, more than half of whom are based on-site at airports. It is this unrivalled presence at more than 1,000 of the world’s airports that makes SITA the ideal technology partner.

  • Contract marks inaugural relationship with the leading premium European airline

London | September 17, 2014– Global content and media agency Spafax has been awarded the exclusive inflight entertainment system media sales contract for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

This follows a competitive pitch process in which Spafax demonstrated a strategic and innovative approach to market KLM’s inflight entertainment system. In addition, Spafax demonstrated the ability to support future development of new media opportunities throughout the KLM passenger experience.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be working with KLM – one of the world’s most reputable airline brands – to provide media sales services for their inflight entertainment platform,” Niall McBain, Chief Executive Officer, Spafax. “This is a strategic win for Spafax, extending our media sales services into Europe, adding scale and scope for our clients and advertising partners to reach the premium international travelling audience.”

Spafax will be opening a sales office in Amsterdam in the coming months, to be closer to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines’ corporate offices. The new office will also support expanding European sales network for Spafax.

Toronto, Canada | September 18, 2014– Flight Level Media Ltd. (FLM) and Panasonic Avionics Corporation have signed a 5 year Software Applications License Agreement that supports the integration of FLM’s passenger applications for Panasonic’s inseat and wireless platforms.

One of these applications, Postcards From the Plane, is about to launch on a major European carrier as an enhancement to the airline’s onboard Wi-Fi portal powered by Panasonic’s eXConnect system. The application invites passengers to compose personalized postcards and to send them either digitally by email or via social media; or as actual print cards delivered by post to the passenger’s recipient in about 7 days. With rich destination imagery sent down to the ground and wrapped in the airline’s colours, the app acts as both a strong brand vehicle for the airline and also a revenue generator through print card and advertising sales.

“Postcards From the Plane is a great example of the next generation of inflight applications that take advantage of connectivity to provide an enhanced passenger experience and new revenue streams” added Scott Scheer, Director, eXTV and Ancillary Services for Panasonic Avionics.

Peter Ronn, Flight Level Media’s President, said: “We are thrilled to have Panasonic’s support to bring our passenger applications to the inflight market.”

All of FLM’s passenger applications have an e-Commerce component, use flight-data to present an experience specific to the passenger’s actual flight and provide the airline and their partners unique ways to benefit and connect with passengers both during and after the flight.

Lake Forest, CA | September 18, 2014– Panasonic Avionics Corporation’ (Panasonic), today unveiled the features of the eX3 system selected by British Airways as part of a cabin refresh for 18 of its B747 aircraft.

“British Airways is world renowned for its in-cabin experience, and we are very excited to have been selected for their B747 retrofit. The airline’s team needed an extremely reliable, ultra-lightweight system that offered an incredible passenger experience — and our eX3 solution delivers on all fronts.” said Paul Margis, President and CEO of Panasonic Avionics. “Our X series design philosophy gives British Airways the flexibility to enhance the features and functionality as their cabin strategy evolves.”

At launch, Panasonic’s eX3 system will immerse British Airways customers into an entertainment experience that includes excellent picture quality with brighter colors, a larger color palette, wider viewing angles, and best-in-class contrast ratios. The monitors also feature quad-core processing power to support over a terabyte of British Airways content, eye-popping animations in the passenger user interface, and support for the widest possible range of applications.

The eX3 platform is also designed to protect an airline’s investment in IFE.  Its flexible platform will support future enhancements to British Airways’ in-flight experience.  The monitors have been designed with enough processing power to support all of today’s applications as well as future, resource-heavy applications that will be introduced over the next several years. The system is also ready to support broadband enabled applications, real-time advertising, personalization, and other services.

eX3 also offers the lowest possible total cost of ownership with an ultra-lightweight design that is less than five pounds per seat, high reliability with features such as solid state disk drives, network redundancy, and local storage at each seat.

Margis added, “With unmatched performance, and an unrivaled features set, eX3 offers the best price to performance curve available in our industry today.”

  • Philippine flag-carrier adds OnAir wireless IFE and Connectivity to further aircraft

APEX EXPO, Anaheim, CA | September 17, 2014– Only four months after entering service on its A330s, Philippine Airlines (PAL) will install wireless IFE on a further five A330s, as well as six A340s. The A330s already have connectivity, and it will now also be deployed on the A340s. All the long-range aircraft will therefore be equipped with OnAir’s full IFEC package of mobile phone and Wi-Fi services, and wireless IFE.

PAL President & Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang said, “Through PAL’s iNAiR offerings, passengers can now select from an array of movies, television programs and music thus enabling them to customize their inflight entertainment. Passengers’ responses to being able to use their own phones, tablets and laptops for both IFE and connectivity has been overwhelmingly positive. Adding OnAir Play to more aircraft was an easy decision. While we are very much aware that we are breaking new ground by not having traditional embedded IFE on the brand new A330s, there is no question that wireless IFE is working for our passengers.”

“There is no better proof of an airline’s confidence in your products than a follow-on fleet extension order within such a short timeframe,” said Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir. “PAL has paved the way with our inflight Wi-Fi, mobile phone service and W-IFE. We are delighted that the combination has proved such a success for them. We expect this to become an industry standard.”

The combination of Mobile OnAir, Internet OnAir and OnAir Play on board PAL’s A330-300 fleet provides passengers with the full range of inflight choices. The number of devices passengers carry is increasing, the expectation of ubiquitous connectivity is rising and the desire for autonomy over content consumption is growing. Passengers can now use their own devices to connect to the Internet, check email, text messages and voicemail, update social media, and choose from a wide selection of on-demand content.

OnAir Play, introduced onboard PAL in May this year, is a low-cost, flexible upgrade from OnAir’s connectivity products. It is simple to operate. Airlines can also brand OnAir products to ensure consistency across the complete passenger experience.

PAL’s B777-300ER aircraft are also equipped with Mobile OnAir and Internet OnAir.

The B777-300s and new A330-300s are deployed on the flag carrier’s international route network.

  • Bringing connectivity into airline operations is the first initiative of the e-Aircraft program

APEX EXPO, Anaheim, CA | September 17, 2014– OnAir Plug is a new product that provides inflight Internet access for the airline itself over a secure dedicated wireless network. By using OnAir Plug to exchange real-time data between cabin crews and the ground, airlines can optimize their inflight and ground operations.

OnAir Plug is agnostic, neutral and secure: the wireless network can be accessed by any Wi-Fi enabled device and supports all crew member applications.

“OnAir is providing the innovation to allow airlines to exploit connectivity beyond passenger communications. OnAir Plug provides operational real-time data for the cabin crew. This is the first major step in unleashing the full potential of the e-Aircraft,” said Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir. “Our strong presence in the inflight connectivity market has given us a very solid platform to be the first mover for connected crews.”

Philippine Airlines is the launch customer for OnAir Plug. It is the first airline in the world to provide mobile phone, Wi-Fi and wireless inflight entertainment for their passengers. The airline now has access to a range of services previously unavailable to the crew.

For example, OnAir Plug can connect the airline’s point of sale devices to enable real-time credit card transactions during onboard retail sales.

“OnAir helped us lead the way with our wireless inflight entertainment system. We are very excited about OnAir Plug both in what it will enable us to do in the future and the myriad opportunities it presents us, as an airline keen to leverage the e-Aircraft,” said Ana Leah V. Rodriguez, Head of Marketing and Ancillary Sales, Philippine Airlines.

Dawkins added, “A secure connectivity channel is the first significant step towards enabling a “Nose-to-Tail” communications channel for airline operational needs. When fully realized, the e-Aircraft will provide airlines increased operational control by providing real-time data to improve airlines’ decision-making. Among other e-Aircraft benefits, airlines will have enriched applications that enhance flight, ground and business operations, superior aircraft health monitoring, access to live Electronic Flight Bag data, improved maintenance reporting, and secured data storage. And this is only the beginning.”

OnAir and SITA are working jointly on the e-Aircraft. We have a unique position in the air transport industry that ensures we remain neutral and our solutions offerings remain modular. By providing integrated “Nose-to-Tail” solutions, we are helping airlines experience the entire range of benefits that accompany the e-Aircraft.

For more information about OnAir Plug, OnAir and PAL will be giving a news briefing at the APEX Expo in Anaheim at 11am on 17 September. Come to our stand n° 1319 to listen in at the briefing or any other time during the Expo.

Carlsbad, CA | September 16, 2014– ViaSat Inc. (Nasdaq:VSAT) was awarded the Best Achievement in Technology Award for its Exede® In The Air in-flight connectivity service at the APEX Avion awards ceremony last night in Anaheim. Entries are judged by an industry panel comprised of representatives from every part of the airline passenger experience community: airline, hardware, software, distributor, lab and service companies.

Exede in-flight internet service is designed to get more passengers using in-flight internet by eclipsing the service quality and speeds of other in-cabin airline broadband services. Compared to traditional take rates of less than 10 percent of passengers, uptake is averaging around 40 percent on JetBlue flights using the ViaSat service, with a record 148 simultaneous personal electronic devices connected on a recent flight.

The major differentiator is the innovative, high-capacity Ka-band satellite system invented by ViaSat. Designed specifically to improve satellite internet performance and speed, the more favorable economics of the ViaSat system enable airlines to provide a consistent, high-speed service level to each passenger, rather than passengers having to compete for service from an aggregate amount of bandwidth to the plane. The system is capable of delivering 12 Mbps or more to every connected passenger.

APEX EXPO, Anaheim, CA | September 17, 2014– Inmarsat (LSE:ISAT.L), the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services, today confirmed Thales, the leader in inflight entertainment and connectivity, as a Value Added Reseller for GX Aviation.

Inmarsat and Thales expect that launch customers for GX Aviation, Inmarsat’s game-changing high-speed broadband connectivity, will be able to offer Internet speeds of up to 50Mbps to passengers on a global basis in 2015. This represents the only Ka-band solution built to deliver a seamless global network.

“Passengers all over the world will soon have access to high-speed Internet connections and a huge range of new connectivity applications. GX Aviation is the only service that can meet the demand from airlines for a global seamless service,” said Leo Mondale, President Aviation, Inmarsat. “We are delighted to be expanding our relationship with Thales with the addition of GX Aviation. They are a major player in the aerospace industry, as well as one of the major inflight entertainment and connectivity companies. Having Thales on board supports our goal to make GX Aviation widely available to airlines all around the world.”

“Connectivity now forms part of every conversation we have with airlines about inflight entertainment,” said Dominique Giannoni, Thales Vice President and CEO of the InFlight Entertainment and Connectivity activities. “Therefore we need to have access to the very best connectivity available, and that means we must have GX Aviation in our portfolio. It is the only Ka-band network providing consistent worldwide coverage, which is absolutely vital for airlines.”

  • Betria Interactive’s FlightPath3D Moving Map Service plans to host PXPoint Point-of-Interest Content from PXCom

Irvine, CA | September 16, 2014– Betria Interactive has partnered with PXCom to offer and host PXCom’s PXPoint Point-of-Interest content displays in Betria’s flagship FlightPath3D Moving Map and City Destination Guide service. As an extension of its Concierge Service information service, FlightPath3D will host each geo-located POI display and present informational, brand-oriented content both independently and in concert with PXCom’s PXFramework and PXApp product suite.

“PXCom is thrilled by its partnership with Betria” quoted Cyril JEAN, PXCom’s CEO,” since we can together provide valuable solutions to airlines through sponsored POIs. We bring an innovative way to connect destination-related suppliers (city tours, museums, fashion shops…) with airline passengers, raising the bar of the airline passenger’s experience.”

The Betria/PXCom partnership will provide airlines with interactive maps filled with worldwide content, either coming from best-in-class travel guides or directly sponsored by destination-related suppliers.

“FlightPath3D provides a unique opportunity to connect with the passenger in an engaging and informative medium.” said Boris Veksler, President of Betria Interactive. “We believe that by working with innovative partners like PXCom we can connect content providers with the passenger in a positive and value-added manner with current and relevant content without increasing the airline’s costs.”

  • Virgin Atlantic continues to enrich their passenger experience with the selection of Betria Interactive’s new FlightPath3D Moving Map & City Destination Guide service

Irvine, CA | September 16, 2014– Virgin Atlantic has recently completed an agreement to launch FlightPath3D from Betria Interactive as their next generation Moving Map & ‘geotainment’ service. The new service offering includes the latest version of the FlightPath3D product suite and will enter into service later this year.

“FlightPath3D is a marked departure from the status quo of moving map products,” noted Catherine Stewart, Onboard Media Development Manager at Virgin Atlantic. “Beyond its incredibly captivating 3D experience, the service is infused with interesting and detailed Point-of-Interest content that can engage the passenger in a rich and informative interactive experience.”

The FlightPath3D integrated in-flight moving map service, for airline passengers to enjoy in-flight, includes a flight preview “auto-play” script broadcast during aircraft boarding as well as an in-seat interactive 3D map application with detailed satellite imagery and integrated street maps. The service boasts an incredible 25,000 named locations from across the world in up to 12 languages. The City Destination Guide includes an initial 36 destination cities with expansion plans for many more all with detailed street-level city maps and rich, multi-media Point-of-Interest data.

“Virgin Atlantic only selects the most premium of offerings to ensure a world class passenger experience,” explained Boris Veksler, President of Betria Interactive. “We believe the FlightPath3D product suite delivers on that commitment; not only today, but will deliver current, relevant and engaging audience experiences well into the future.”

  • Vietnam expected to be first Gogo commercil airline to utilize Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band satellite technology

Itasca, IL | September 16, 2014– Gogo (NASDAQ: GOGO), a leading global aero communications service provider, announced today that it has received a bid award letter from Vietnam Airlines to provide in-flight connectivity services on Vietnam Airlines’ fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft and a majority of Vietnam’s Airbus A350 aircraft. The aircraft will be outfitted with a mix of Inmarsat’s new GX Aviation Ka-band service and their proven SwiftBroadband connectivity. The parties are currently negotiating a definitive agreement, with the GX service currently expected to launch in the second half of 2015.

“Gogo continues to gain momentum with the global expansion of our connectivity service. This partnership with Vietnam Airlines will mark many firsts for Gogo, notably the first airline commitment to Inmarsat’s GX Aviation broadband connectivity and Gogo’s first Airbus A350 aircraft and Boeing 787 service commitment,” said Gogo’s president and CEO, Michael Small. “We look forward to working with Vietnam Airlines and our other partners to provide a unique in-flight experience for their passengers.”

“GX Aviation is gathering momentum fast. The first satellite is in operation and the other two satellites are awaiting launch to support a global commercial service expected at the end of June 2015,” said Leo Mondale, President Aviation, Inmarsat. “As the technology challenges are now largely met, we are able to enter into firm contracts with airline customers, and it is particularly exciting to have Vietnam Airlines, who are expanding rapidly in the Asian market, as our GX Aviation launch customer. We are very pleased to support Vietnam Airlines as they upgrade their fleet and their service to their passengers, who are increasingly demanding the type of connectivity they enjoy on the ground.”

We have returned to Seattle from APEX 2014 which was one of the growing IFE venues this year and because of market conditions and passenger demand changes, there was a lot to see. Firstly, note that we can’t cover the almost-fifty booths we visited and three hundred or so conversations/interviews  we held in one IFExpress issue. We will try over the next month or so to cover them in summary, and later on, produce some in-depth stories of technologies and innovations that we feel our readers ought to know about. You know we can’t get everything, but we will try!

As you may know, the first day of the show features speakers and this year was no different. While the keynote was given by Ed Shapiro, PAR Capital Partner and VP (Global Eagle Entertainment, etc.), two of the following speakers, Howard Charney (Cisco VP) and Motivational Speaker, Lee Silber got the crowd involved and entertained. Howard whose stage persona is a cross between Woody Allen and Albert Einstein, talked about the coming industry trends from a macro view while Lee Silber used humor and chart speed to drive home the need to think fast and not worry about making mistakes, using informed decisions…  all at one chart per three seconds speed.

As usual, the afternoon breakout sessions specialized in Comfort & Ambiance, Entertainment & Connectivity (Content & Technology), and Catering & Services.

A particularly interesting Entertainment & Connectivity Technical Session was entitled The e-Aircraft – Concept & Fulfillment moderated by Michael Planey. We later talked with Michael and he told IFExpress: “The e-Aircraft panel took a brief look at the many improvements to operational efficiency that can be achieved with the proper allocation of bandwidth and the development of new applications. The seven panelists highlighted how both flight and cabin crews can use new tools such as tablets to receive updated weather forecasts, passenger preference information, and customs and immigration data. Perhaps the most important information, however, is that while progress is coming it will not happen at the same pace as new consumer electronics trends. Placing this new technology into the aircraft is a complex process touching almost every department in the airline and it’s more important to get it implemented correctly than to get it done quickly.”


Next, lets look at some of the show trends that we observed. Please note that there is a lot happening at APEX so if we missed your area of interest, we apologize. We noted the following:

1. From a vendor hardware point of view, IFE and connectivity equipment is being developed for the biggest uninstalled market out there – the single-aisle aircraft. The Panasonic new flat plane phased array satcom antenna is just one example of this trend. In the past, demand drove vendors to build over-water connectivity solutions for larger planes often flying from one country to another and since ground based antenna solutions were not feasible, satcom solutions were developed. With increased bandwidth satellite solutions on their way, a low profile antenna for the smaller planes was a natural.

2. While many vendors noted lighter sales in the last nine months, we believe airlines are waiting to better understand their changing markets (i.e. personal devices). They are watching both cabin hardware and the connectivity solutions. And as you might suspect, they are a bit overloaded by options and trying to couple them with the changing requirements of their customers.

3. Airline alliances are co-purchasing IFE hardware and GUI software to update fleets at demanded lower prices. In many cases, GUI layouts are identical but tailored to each airlines’ corporate identity, giving each a unique feel and look. One example of this is Air France & KLM.

4. Hardware developments were everywhere at the show, particularly focusing on technology to facilitate cabin Wi-Fi – both as a standalone IFE solution and as a second screen solution.

5. And speaking of Wi-Fi, one vendor, VT Miltope, brought out a product they have been working on with a brilliant technology solution developer. We’ve only seen one provider, VT Miltope, research and create a solution to improve in-cabin Wi-Fi by developing onboard firmware in the router that analyze the signals and allows them to talk to one another. The goal here with the nMap2 product with the Cognitive Hotspot Technology is to optimize the signal solution while in operation on the plane. Be prepared, this device will change the industry!

6. Hardware and software are being developed to facilitate secure financial transactions – both at the card/passenger interface and possibly more importantly, in the communication of such data. In the second case, we are talking at the server level and one, by Mark Thompson is actually secure at FIPS Level 3, the same as required by the US Treasury. Credit card sales and services like FlightPath 3D are now protected to a new security level – the highest we have ever seen.

7. IFExpress noted an ever increasing demand for greater future data rates/bandwidth onboard, ostensibly for cabin and crew connectivity.

8. We also found a proliferation of semi-imbedded IFE. For example, Lufthansa Systems is using head-strike protected, off the shelf tablets in a secured embedded manner.

9. InSeat and USB power are now an expectation and no longer an exception.

10. As a proliferation of handheld, semi-embedded and Pax Ped devices become more prevalent, there is an increasing demand for agile, brandable software/GUI’s.

11. Airlines are looking more and more to connectivity and Wi-Fi for their single-aisle solutions.


We further note that because it is somewhat difficult to to get trend information from talking to each connectivity service provider, we contacted Tim Farrar who is a telecom and media consultant in Menlo Park, California. We contacted Tim since we had a future focused presentation he made at the Global Connected Aircraft this year and asked about his view of the connectivity solution. He told IFExpress: “I think the biggest issue right now is the renewed focus on ATG solutions as the lowest cost option for connectivity in high traffic regions. There are proposed network deployments in the US with AT&T, Europe with Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, China, Japan and Australia. So an all-satellite solution becomes less viable outside long-haul routes (and even there, integration with ATG, at least in your home region, is a good idea). Secondly, the sustainability of standalone providers such as Gogo and Row44 becomes more questionable when we have both well funded cellular operators moving into the space and large equipment vendors, who can subsidize the connectivity business from IFE equipment sales. For example, adding satellite connectivity is less than 10% of the cost of installing seat back IFE on a new wide bodied jet. All that means that we’ll see more consolidation. Finally, the biggest unanswered question is how cellular operators see the inflight connectivity opportunity. Is it a new revenue source, like the connected car, or mainly a marketing opportunity, to display their brand and reduce churn by offering more places for their own customers to connect? If it’s the former, then they may be disappointed. If it’s the latter then that will put even more pressure on the standalone connectivity providers who are trying to make money out of this business.


 

Bits & Pieces

Paul Burke told IFExpress that his company, Telefonix, is celebrating their 25th year in the aviation business – the quiet ones always win!

Glad you are back, Joe Winston, you were missed.

Geoff Underwood of IFPL fame just won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade… again, and you can watch the proceedings here. Congratulations to Geoff and the whole IFPL team!