Editor’s Note: We usually put these notices at the end of our Hot Topic but this week we wanted to let our readers know that while our “Readers Predictions” are in the forefront we have a really interesting paper from Dr. Junkang Ma of CETCA fame. Dr. Ma put together an interesting piece on the inflight connectivity market in China… with an even more interesting solution to the problem of airline-ground interoperability  – think SIP! Be sure to check it out.

The IFExpress team usually solicits yearly IFE predictions from our readership for our first issues and 2014 is no different. As you can imagine, they vary from the sublime to the incredibly interesting. You be the judge. Lets look at what some of our advertisers said first:

  • The FAA’s and the EASA’s decision on gate to gate operation of PEDs in flight mode will further accelerate the trend towards wireless inflight entertainment. More than 50% of all European legacy airlines will adopt the new guidance in 2014.  Norbert Muller, LHSystems
  • “There will be a big shift away from brand name portables to portables specifically designed for inflight use.” Attribute prediction to Josh Rasmussen, digEcor.
  • “Airlines across the world will continue to increase the provision of both Wi-Fi and cell phone connectivity: the technology is reliable, affordable and very easy to install and operate. The US will remain the exception, until the debate about voice services is resolved.” Axel Jahn, TriaGnoSys

Readers also sent in their predictions and we really like the following:

  • “With increased gate-to-gate PED use, the demand for seat power will increase tremendously on regional aircraft.” – Mr. Mark Milauskas, Armstrong Aerospace Inc.
  • “The inflight use of cell phones in US won’t cause any more problems than it has in the rest of the world. And there have been no problems in six years, over five continents”, Ian Dawkins, OnAir
  • “ The demand for streaming IFE over Wi-Fi will see the highest increase in customer demand and force the movie studios to implement an encryption process to allow for early window viewing.” – Mr. Todd Hamblin, Global Aerospace Design Corp.
  • “By the end of 2014, a bird strike compliance path will be forged and system providers will begin installing IFE satellite antennas again.” – Mr. Mark Milauskas, Armstrong Aerospace Inc.
  • “US airlines will not allow inflight mobile calling because of the feedback from their frequent fliers and flight attendant unions.” – Mr. Todd Hamblin, Global Aerospace Design Corp.
  • “4k Ultra High Definition (4k UHD) Networked monitors designed specifically for Business and Commercial aircraft use will be in service by midyear 2014.” Bill Baltra, Retired
  • “By the end of 2014, the US government (FCC) will lift the ban on the use of cellular technology while in-flight.” –Joe Kupfer, Armstrong Aerospace

Lastly, as can be seen from the above, inflight cell phone connectivity has a lot of interest, and a lot of different opinions so we asked John Courtright to opine on the subject and he sent us the following:

Here is my prediction and a follow up clarification to the question,

  • In the US, at least one airline will “test” the applicability of inflight cellphone calling.

Prediction:  Yes, I expect a small number of U.S. airlines to permit inflight cell phone calling.  Furthermore, I expect the first airlines to allow inflight cell phone calls on short-haul flight, flights of two hours or less.  The first to test the cell usage issue will either be a.) an independent Regional Operators, such as Mesa, Republic, and Nantucket, or b.) Regionals affiliated with a Major Carrier, such as American Eagle or Jet Blue.

The first set of carriers found in a.) above will figure that their flight operations are short haul and the “obnoxious factor” is mitigated by the short duration of the flights as well as being affected by the higher ambient noise on RJs.  The second set of carriers, those associated with a Major Airline( (b.) above), will see a competitive advantage in and out of the Major’s hubs as well as being a guinea pig for the major carrier to assess passenger acceptance.

Longer range prediction:  Carriers will NOT create a cell-phone usage section, like the old smoking section.  Too much policing by the flight attendants.  Carriers will initially allow cell phone usage on short-haul, high density routes.  Think SFO-LAX or LGA – DCA where the clientele is largely business based.  I see cell phone usage to expand to a flight duration-based judgment and  to have a cut-off point at two hours.

The above predictions, of course, are moot if the DeFazio Amendment is extended and thus inflight cell phone calls are prohibited by statute.  But absent a specific law, I see the usage to be flight time based. (Editor’s Note: We called Senator DeFazio’s office and he has yet to get back to us on the status of his Bill.)

While predictions seem to have taken center stage in this IFExpress, we have been working with Dr. Junkang Ma, a brilliant Program Manager at the Chinese avionics manufacturer CETCA, and he has put together a very good vision of the developing Chinese inflight connectivity market for us. Here is a bit of the story: “In December 2013, the MIIT of China (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) released the 4G frequency license to the three government-owned telecom operators (China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom), establishing that the Telecom industry of China has officially entered into the 4G generation, beginning from TD-LTE, although 3G has only been used for around 4 years in China. While the ground-based Telecom industry is rapidly developing, one large area in China appears to be forgotten – the area in the air. The cabin of the civil aircraft has become the last “isolated island” of the information age, which makes the passengers on board feel like being back in the early years of the 20th century. The Chinese civil aviation market is experiencing accelerated growth and as more travelers are flying, passengers require a similar communication experience like they enjoy on the ground, which will result in an accelerated and diversified growth phase for China’s connectivity market…” You can read the whole story here .

And lastly, A large French IFEC company is looking for engineers in the Irvine area we have heard and if you are so inclined you might send your resume to them! Systems, Software, Platform, Project, Logistics, Field Service Engineers and even Financial Analysts… so we understand. Good Luck!

We first met Dr. Junkang Ma as part of the CETCA contingent visiting AIX in Hamburg. The occasion was the signing of a Thales contract to develop and manufacture the C919 IFE hardware in China. In an effort to introduce Chinese aviation information to our readers, we asked Dr. Ma to write an introductory view of arguably the worlds greatest aviation growth market, and surely the next big IFEC market. We hope he contributes more articles in the future.

China’s IFE Market Enters a Diversified Growth Phase – Dr. Junkang Ma

Following in the footsteps of the global economy, the international civil aviation market appears to be recovering as well. In support of this observation, both Boeing and Airbus have large orders for their new single-aisle aircraft, while orders for China’s C919 have risen to over 280 aircraft as well. Clearly, the Chinese civil aviation market is experiencing rapid growth, which has resulted in an explosive and diversified growth phase for China’s IFE market.

Although China’s IFE market enters the competition relatively late, it has the advantage of being new to market and utilizes many of the new technological developments and advancements that have occurred in recent years compared to some systems that are still tied to legacy architecture and hardware. With the high proportion of newly purchased aircraft that are to be rolled out in the next five years, this advantage provides a broad space for the advanced technologies and new systems that will be introduced by China’s IFE market. Furthermore, Chinese airlines perceive IFE equipment as an investment that will produce a compound yield. The anticipation is to not only utilize IFE to attract passengers and make them comfortable en route, but also introduce new business models from the highly successful, ground-based Chinese consumer market, to make new profit growth points.

For the last few years, portable consumer electronic products have prevailed. A high percentage of passengers bring numerous PEDs on-board, such as, smart phones, iPhones, tablets, and iPads – just to mention a few. China’s mobile communication and wireless network market is the largest in the world, and individual users expect to get information and entertainment by their portable electronic devices. Therefore, with passengers’ active demands and Chinese airlines’ evolving expectations, there is a rapid shift from traditional IFE to new IFE centering on mobile communication and wireless networks, i.e. IFEC (IFE & Connectivity) where passengers will not only log onto the on-board media server via a cabin wireless LAN to get their entertainment and information service, but also enjoy mobile communication and Internet service via satellite or air-to-ground broadband communications.

Today’s Chinese airlines are being driven by the new ground-based technologies to transform their onboard service to meet their passengers’ needs and expectations. Currently, most of the services are one-directional, such as, providing pre-set video programs that are not selectable. However, with the introduction of mobile communication and wireless networks into the cabin, airlines will start to provide personalized and customized services giving more freedom to their passengers. Firstly, passengers can freely select traditional entertainment, gaming and information services using their personal electronic devices. Meanwhile, Chinese airlines plan to introduce new services, drawing on the experiences especially from the mature services of the consumer market such as electronic commerce and social networking. For example, they will use TAOBAO, which competes with ebay, and SINA WEIBO which is considered ‘China’s Twitter’. Directed by those new services, new business models are beginning to take form… Additionally, airlines can merge the ground and in-air service to promote other innovative business models, such as, all-in-one customized service for VIP passengers. Additionally, working with advertising companies the airlines can develop personalized advertisements that can be pushed at specific passenger demographics.

Today’s Speaker’s Corner was contributed by Dr. Junkang Ma, Technology Manager, CETC Avionics Co., Ltd. Here is Dr. Ma’s CV.

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