Geneva, Switzerland | January 16, 2014– The Federal Communications Commission has formally published the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding its proposal to lift the ban on cellphone usage in flight. The NPRM allows 30 days for public comment, through February 14, 2014.

“This rule change would give airlines the option to decide if they want to introduced inflight cell phone services in the US”, said Ian Dawkins, CEO of OnAir. “Airlines across the world already allow passengers to use their phones to tweet, text, email and talk. Over four and a half million people take up the option every year and there have been no reported complaints about disruption.”

Background information

Mobile OnAir, OnAir’s inflight GSM service, started flying in 2007. It is is currently flying with 18 airlines, including world-leading global airlines such as Aeroflot, British Airways, Emirates, All Nippon Airways, Qatar Airways, TAM and Singapore Airlines.

People typically use Mobile OnAir for email, social media and text messages. Voice calls make up about 10% of all usage and the average call length is under two minutes. The cabin crew and/or the pilot can turn off the voice element, or the entire system, at the push of a button.

Happy New Year to all our readers and we hope that 2013 will be a little bit better than 2012, actually a lot better.

As you might guess, this year will undoubtedly bring a lot of changes to this mad world if IFEC. Outside influences will be a big driver and economic conditions will still dictate the rate of change. Personal technology has never had so much influence on our business but this year, we are comfortable in predicting that we will see two major influences – Mobile and Other. Mobile is the eight-hundred-pound-gorilla and Other is just that, other influences like FAA rulings, economic conditions and who knows what else. For our efforts, we requested the thoughts of others in the IFE space and we hope this article gets you thinking.


As the trend of mobile connectivity affects all of us, the only place travelers won’t be connected is on the plane!? Proof of this trend is evident in the smartphone world. Shipment revenues for smartphones are expected to reach $37 billion in 2013, with more than 125.8 million units shipping to retailers. This is up 16 percent from 2012. Tablet computers also are expected to see phenomenal growth.This year, unit sales of tablets are projected to surpass 105 million (up 54%), resulting in $35.6 billion in shipment revenue, up 22% year-over-year. And speaking of apps, Apple announced announced that customers have downloaded over 40 billion apps from the iTunes App Store, with nearly 20 billion in 2012 alone. Recently it was announced that a record-breaking 17.4 million iOS and Android devices were activated on Christmas Day, leading to equally impressive downloads over the holidays. The week of December 25 through December 31 recorded the highest number of device activations and app downloads of any week in history. Some 50 million iOS and Android devices were activated during the holiday week and 1.76 billion applications were downloaded. The iOS app count is now over 775,000! By the end of next year, mobile internet traffic will surpass fixed and a lot of those users will be using them on planes. And we mean a lot! From a trend perspective, one Astronics sage told IFExpress, “More connectivity and more power!” We assume he means inseat power and he would know.

We also see the coming connectivity revolution with increased bandwidth, increased aircraft retrofits and increased interest by airlines. Gogo, Panasonic, Row 44 and others are rushing to get passengers connected. Liz Young told IFExpress, “I think we will see a gradual shift on many international airlines toward ‘tiered’ services, which means that passengers will have options, e.g., using their own electronic devices at no charge, having access to wireless devices that the airline provides at a modest charge, and having access to ‘fixed’ devices (seat-back, tray table) that are free to use for basic services but require a credit card swipe for premium services.  Virtually all wide body planes will provide satellite linkage for these services, but the Ku-band/Ka-band battle will not be clearly resolved for many years to come.”

Along the same general direction, AirCloud’s Peter Lemme told IFExpress, “Inflight entertainment providers have been dabbling with connected applications for many years: live TV, messaging, browsing. Inmarsat remains a mainstay with L-band services and hopes to hold off market penetration from ViaSat, Panasonic, Row 44, and Gogo. Both Iridium and Inmarsat are held back with new developments more than one year away. With so many service providers in the mix, suppliers of equipment, airframes, and airline operators will need to embrace standardization wherever possible. Broadband technology has fully matured for 2013. The battle at the seat, whether seat-back or BYOD, is much more about monetization. Seat-back deployments have long benefitted from subsidy, whereas BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) seems also BYOB (Build Your Own Business). There really is no reason for differentiating the monetization opportunities. Long-standing desires for targeted marketing and for premium advertising, which have been evident for decades, finally are powered by technology that can shower the cabin with individualized experiences. BYOD and a stand-alone Wi-Fi offers the bare-minimum IFE.  In 2013, not one commercial operator should even question the immediate need to deploy Wi-Fi no matter how small the airplane. Connectivity at the gate is the area that may be the most surprising.  Cellular can now equal WLAN technologies, freeing IFE from the airport wireless tangled-web. I don’t foresee dedicated WiMax satisfying IFE appetite, but I would not ignore it either. The greatest development to come is the most boring – wired Ethernet at the gate.”

From a future point of view, the FAA and FCC are rethinking connectivity, as innumerable news releases have noted, but we wondered if airplane text messaging was possible today as we had tried it earlier on a domestic flight so we contacted Robbie Hyman, Row 44 PR Guru and asked if that feature was to be found on the sat-based connectivity today and he told us; “Interestingly, with iMessage on the iPhone you can send a text message to another iPhone, using a Wi-Fi signal and not your phone’s cell signal. I just learned that the other day and am now even more impressed with Apple! But as for true text messaging from one of our partner airlines’ planes, no, passengers don’t have that option now. Row 44’s system does have GSM capability, but our airlines have not asked for it. So for now passengers cannot use their cell phone’s cell signal to send texts from our airlines’ planes (either in the US or anywhere else). They’ll have to find web-based alternatives and use the Wi-Fi service.”


We also asked some IFEC’ers about the future industry changes and we got a variable buffet of answers. Rich Salter, Lumexis CTO had this to say, ” I want to predict that advances in network technology will be a lot more dramatic than many may think – not to mention the fact that 802.11ac is almost here and will force the WAP suppliers to start building it into their airborne WAPs sooner rather than later – (note that Apple iDevices will likely have “ac” capability in their next generation versions due out in 2013). Next year we will see dramatic advances in the enabling technologies for onboard networks (and this bodes well for higher definition video): For fiber optic networks, a 10 Gbit standard will be considered by aviation standards committees. For wireless systems, a new generation of PEDs will drive IFEC suppliers to consider adding 802.11“ac” capability (for 450Mbps-1.3Gbps) into their airborne WAPs sooner rather than later.”  And lastly, Beth DeYoung, GM Zodiac Lighting Solutions, told IFExpress “The airlines are realizing the benefits of LED interior lighting and we expect the demand for this technology to take-off in 2013.”

The next inputs come from sources who want to remain anonymous… see if you agree, they vary from the sublime to the ridiculous!
• Travel costs will jump … and when first class drinks are not free, a revolt will spread!
• Major switches in IFE suppliers at some of the top airlines in the world but are they making changes for better equipment or service, or are they making changes because they are tired of the games?  What ever happened to the saying ‘…with the devil you know?’
• More Wireless Installations over embedded IFE networks
• Samsung and Boeing part company within 18 months
• Major inroads by the Chinese into OEM aircraft production; announcements of major airline buys from the Chinese vendor this year.
• Could a midwest IFE vendor be sold to a competitor?
• IFE – Network contract assigned to the first tourist space shuttle in private ownership
• Expect the first IFEC Cloud integration.
• New low cost defibrillators will generate more airline interest after an incident!!
• There will soon be more tablets in use on the plane than laptops – watch out IFE!
• IF the FAA permits voice calls on planes, the airlines will divide the plane in half…phone calls and no phone call sections and the only fair way is right-side-left side.
• Panasonic will introduce the first Ultra HD display for planes (biz jets probably).
• The only 3D display to make it on a plane will be the non-glasses type (similar to the ones in past Thales booths).
• Watch for flat fee increases from the airlines… more money to be made than percentage increases, and passengers think they are all being treated equal!
• A new IFE developer will enter the fray in 2013!

Aircraft Interiors, Hamburg, April 4, 2011 -– TriaGnoSys has today announced the launch of GSMConneX, an end-to-end solution that provides GSM services to aircraft passengers. The solution consists of the hardware and software parts for both the aircraft and ground segments, with the entire aircraft hardware being contained in only two lightweight and small units. The solution is displayed at Aircraft Interiors 2011 at TriaGnoSys’ booth 6C1.

GSMConneX enables passengers to use their mobile phones, including smartphones, to make and receive calls, send and receive text messages and emails, and browse the Internet with EDGE/GPRS data rates. It uses advanced compression and optimisation techniques to make the most efficient use of available bandwidth, minimising satellite link costs. It can also be used for WLAN Internet services by adding an optional Wireless Access Point.

Axel Jahn, Managing Director of TriaGnoSys, said, “Our systems have been used to provide inflight connectivity on commercial airlines for many years. Now, for the first time, we are designing and producing the whole solution, including both the hardware and software. The key advantage is that TriaGnoSys is the turnkey supplier of the whole system, meaning we are the single point of contact during the design and production process. We can therefore provide optimized, efficient and cost-effective solutions.”

The airborne hardware consists of a Base Transceiver Station (BTS), with an integrated server. This is installed with advanced software for GSM control, satellite control and optional WiFi services which includes portal and payment functionality. The second unit is the Network Control Unit, which controls a wide range of GSM and UMTS frequencies.

Jahn continued, “We have designed the units to be very simple to install, both in terms of their size and the minimal wiring required. This means the solution is suitable for all types of aircraft. We are targeting mainly the business market, though it can be used in any aircraft where space is at a premium.”

GSMConneX Aero can connect to the ground network via satellite, or any other backhaul link. A number of satellite systems are supported, including Inmarsat SwiftBroadband, Ku- and Ka-band, as well as direct air-to-ground.

Hamburg, Aircraft Interiors Expo, April 5, 2011 — OnAir’s combined GSM and inflight Internet services have proven after a successful first year of operation that SwiftBroadband provides more than enough capacity to meet passenger needs.

The combined Mobile OnAir and Internet OnAir services, first launched by Oman Air in March 2010, are also operating on Saudi Arabian Airlines and Egyptair. They allow airline passengers to use their mobile devices in the same way as international roaming or to tap into an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot.

“We are seeing that people communicate during flights in exactly the same way as when they are on a train, in a taxi or at the airport,” said Ian Dawkins, Chief Executive Officer of OnAir. Of passengers accessing the service, 95 percent use the GSM service options rather than logging into the hotspot, our survey shows.

“Passengers predominantly use their mobile devices for calls, text messaging and email, as well as mobile data. More than half of the passengers who bought inflight Internet access used their tablet or smart phone, rather than a laptop, showing that people like the convenience of using their own, familiar, handheld devices.”

“We are all becoming more and more dependent on our mobile phones so it is natural that people want to continue using them during flights,” Dawkins said. “The OnAir GSM services couldn’t be more straightforward: just turn your phone on and use it.” There is no need to enter credit card details because the costs are billed by the passenger’s mobile operator in the regular bill.

When passengers have bought access to the inflight Internet, bandwidth consumption has typically been light, mirroring the way that people communicate on the ground when roaming. Of the top 20 websites accessed over OnAir’s inflight Internet service, Facebook is number one with nearly 40% of all usage. To put that into perspective, the second-ranked website is Google, with only 10%.

OnAir’s combined GSM and inflight Internet services are in operation with Oman Air, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Egypt Air and will be launched with Singapore Airlines, Aeroflot and Libyan Airlines later this year.