Melbourne, Florida and Paris, France | January 25, 2016– Thales has been selected by JetBlue Airways to upgrade the current and future A320 fleet with its next generation in-seat television solution called STV+. As the launch customer for STV+, JetBlue will benefit from an enhanced passenger experience produced by Thales.

The complete STV+ solution uses a new ultra lightweight, seat- centric design featuring live and integrated video content and broadband connectivity. JetBlue will be the first commercial airline to offer its passengers Direct Broadcast Satellite Television plus connectivity embedded in the seatback. Retrofit installations on the A320 fleet will begin in early 2017.

STV+ is an Android-based, high definition touch screen experience which includes a selection of over 100 channels of live TV, Audio- and-Video-on-Demand (AVOD) and real-time connected applications. The product will provide unlimited possibilities for custom app and widget development live content streaming, audio- and-video-on-demand, and personal device pairing to offer more entertainment options than ever.

Thales is offering this product as a turn-key solution for the A320 fleet which includes line maintenance and support services, software solutions, system engineering and Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for the aircraft.

Thales

In Hamburg, on Aircraft Interiors International’s opening day, Thales announced a host of new technologies specifically designed to align the company strategies to enhance the passenger experience with increasing airlines’ return on investment. Having integrated LiveTV activities, Thales will now be able to offer a unique IPTV service for a near-real-time feed of live television programs. By using real-time satellite feeds, popular television events, such as sports matches, will be streamed to all airplanes equipped with IPTV services from a dedicated Thales lab tasked with controlling, transcoding, and disseminating the TV signal via the Thales connectivity system. This offer is made viable through Thales’s strong ability to develop global rights management and its effective use of content, which differentiates it from any other type of service, in that, Thales will broadcast only the valuable events from various content providers to the aircraft and record the programs for on-demand playback. This solution eliminates irrelevant programming and makes the most efficient use of the aircraft bandwidth. Traditional TV streaming services simply pipe content directly from TV networks, prohibiting any control over what is broadcast. The Thales solution is a significant step forward as it allows airlines to stream relevant content that effectively targets their customers, giving passengers more choice and control over their television experience.

Thales also introduced their near field communications (NFC) for payment transactions using its systems. Through the remote module developed for the AVANT system, airlines will now be able to configure their IFE to accept this growing “Tap and Go” technology to allow passengers to make instant payments for all on-board transactions. Regardless of the airline’s business model, ancillary revenue generation streams are becoming ever more important and NFC technology will facilitate payment transactions, improving the passenger experience and increasing airlines’ revenue streams. Another another new technology is an enhanced digital magazine experience, the result of a partnership with Zinio, the world’s largest digital newsstand, boasting over 6,000 titles in 33 languages. With the use of Zinio’s Android inflight application for digital magazines, available through the Thales App portal, passengers will be able to access an unrivalled choice of content ranging from the world’s biggest brands to niche specialist titles. Interests and topics covered include news, politics, technology, art, style, travel and more. Thales also offers a solution which provides an enhanced passenger experience while simultaneously opens up avenues of exciting new revenue generation to airlines, due to attractive licensing and sponsorship models, as well as potential new business relationships with publishing houses and advertisers.

The company continues to evolve its AVANT platform to ensure its continued technological superiority amongst all other in-flight entertainment systems. On the opening day of the Aircraft Interiors International show in Hamburg, Thales announced several new technology evolutions that will be made available on AVANT. These underpin the success of the modular design of the system and highlight the proven track record of the most advanced in-flight entertainment system on the market. First and foremost, the cornerstone of the passenger interface, the AVANT screen, will now be larger, with 10-22” HD in-seat displays for the economy cabin and up to a 24” and 32” Ultra HD for premium cabins. These new screens will bring passengers a vivid and cinematic picture quality, no different than what they can expect from the best home-entertainment systems. Airlines will incur a significant benefit from a 35% reduction in weight and 20% reduction in power per screen. Equipped with the latest generation quad-core processors, USB 3.0 for PED charging, the displays will be faster and will able to have a greater local storage capacity than 512GB units.

Additionally, Thales announced the long awaited next-generation Touch Passenger Media Unit (PMU) controller. With a 70% larger 5” multi-touchscreen, this evolution of the award-winning Android-based TPMU is equipped with haptic feedback, letting the user register their commands. It represents a game-changing user interface that lets the passenger interact with the seatback display in a unique manner. A revolutionary point-in-air motion sensor lets the user navigate the content simply by pointing the TPMU at screen. This allows the passenger to both navigate the content through the TPMU while keeping the trademark second screen experience. (Editor’s Note: We couldn’t do this Thales report with out the help of Mike Moeller and Giaime Porcu – Mike for his time in explaining the new InFlyt concept and Giaime for his excellent daily Thales write-ups – perhaps other vendors will consider this solution for reporters!)

Noted Giaime Porcu, Thales Communication: “From a market perspective the IFEC world faces three key challenges as we all know, 1) A growing global fleet and the growing demand for IFEC systems on single aisle and shorter routes, 2) A more tech minded passenger requiring higher levels of technology interaction at all times, and 3) Intense competitive pressure for airlines to differentiate their brand and foster brand loyalty.” He went on: “Thales estimates that by 2025 70% of the global fleet will be equipped with in-cabin connectivity. Already, all RFPs in the market for the past 2 years have included a form of connectivity. We also know that the market is reaching a level of maturity that is driving down costs which is opening up new segmenting opportunities in areas like low cost, single aisle and shorter routes. All this lead to our strategic decision to change the paradigm of our offer. As Dominique GIannoni mentioned in his press conference: 1) Our strategic vision is to become the Number 1 provider of IFEC solutions in the world, 2) Passengers want an immersive, personalised, and connected experience, and 3) Airlines no longer accept IFE to be a static cost centre, they want a positive branding and marketing tool to drive customer retention and direct monetization . The result is simple, with the integration of Thales IFEC and LiveTV we were able to bridge the gap on all these market needs and are the only ones in a real position to do so.”

(Editor’s Note: Here is an important piece about the “new” Thales reshaping (and rebranding) of the inflight experience – it is called InFlyt. Check it out.)


KYMETA

The microwave antenna world is in for a radical change and the folks from Kymeta are using metamaterials to make it happen! First, a Wikipedia definition: Metamaterials are materials engineered to have properties that have not yet been found in nature. They are made from assemblies of multiple elements fashioned from conventional materials such as metals or plastics. The materials are usually arranged in repeating patterns, often at microscopic or smaller scales that are smaller than the wavelengths of the phenomena they influence. Metamaterials derive their properties not from the properties of the base materials, but from their designed structure. Their precise shape, geometry, size, orientation and arrangement gives them their properties.

Appropriately designed metamaterials can affect waves of electromagnetic radiation or sound in a manner not observed in bulk materials.[3][4][5] Those that exhibit a negative index of refraction for particular wavelengths have attracted significant research.[6][7][8] These materials are known as negative index metamaterials.”

And, thus we have an update of a IFExpress Exclusive story we ran in the summer of 2013. Kymeta, if you remember at the time, was the solid-state antenna company who didn’t want to say much about the technology as it was in the Ku Band, pre-development stage but from the looks of the unit shown at AIX, they are really up a couple of generations with a virtually flat device, a couple of inches thick.

If metamaterials are not your thing, here is a definition of the application from the Kymeta website: “Broadly defined, electromagnetic metamaterials result from arranging naturally occurring materials in such a way that they produce an electromagnetic response not found in nature. On the mTenna suite of products, tunable elements are arranged in a precisely calculated pattern. Radiofrequency (RF) energy is scattered when the elements are activated, holographically generating a beam. The direction of the beam is defined by the specific elements that are electronically activated—a design that allows for both continual and instantaneous changes in direction.” Look at the antenna like this – between two layers of special glass, metamaterials are deposited much like a printed circuit. The materials, “circuit” design, material used, and the activation elements develop a clean antenna waveform that, in many cases, can “see” beyond 180 degrees, with no moving parts – a star performer on the equator. We also understand that by 2016 they will have a conformal aviation antenna ready to go. Check out the picture we took at AIX with one of their engineers, Kenny Kirchoff (no kidding), and be sure to visit their website! (Editor’s Note: We should mention that clever Honeywell is the first partner we know for the Kymeta aviation product, but Boeing and Airbus will be in the loop because you just can’t pass up an external antenna a few inches thick.)


Rockwell Collins

A couple weeks prior to the show, Rockwell Collins announced the choice of Craig Elliot as VicePresident, Airline Cabin Sales and Marketing, for the company as follows: “Rockwell Collins today announced that Craig Elliott has been named vice president, Airline Cabin Sales and Marketing. Craig brings strong industry knowledge and customer focus to his new role along with extensive business relationships that he has built through his 20 years working in a variety of positions at Rockwell Collins,” said Scott Gunnufson, vice president and general manager, Commercial Sales, Marketing and Support at Rockwell Collins. “Most recently, Elliott served as senior director of Airline Sales at Rockwell Collins, working with airlines throughout the world to equip their fleets with the latest avionics and IFE systems. In his new role, Elliott will lead a sales and marketing team focused on the Rockwell Collins’ full suite of cabin solutions for air transport aircraft. This includes a number of systems and applications, including PAVES™ On-demand, PAVES™ Broadcast, PAVES™ Wireless, ARINC Cabin Connect, Airshow® 3D Moving Map and air-to-ground high-speed connectivity. Elliott holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa.” So much for the news release… now, we have an opinion too – Craig is one of the smartest and nicest folks we have ever worked with in aviation! Our past experience is proof. He will be great with customers and the company engineers alike and we wish him the best. He told IFExpress; Rockwell Collins won the #1 Supplier Supplier Award from Airbus as a Cabin Solution Provider. It revolved around the airlines giving their inputs regarding supplier products (Rockwell and their competitors) and out team won, even when we were up against other cabin suppliers, seats providers, galley hardware manufacturers and the like…we were number one, and we couldn’t be more pleased.”  This points out why Craig Elliot will succeed… he is upbeat, positive, and a good role model for sales and marketing teams – her gets everyone involved. And, lest we forget, Rockwell (and ARINC) have some very interesting products on the cusp of announcement, but alas, that is all we can say for now!


IFExpress had a reason to contact Richie Sugimoto over at ACS and he told IFExpress: “We just delivered 42” HD LCD monitors that comply with DO-160G, Section 16, Current Harmonics (Variable Frequency Power) which directly applies to the A380, A350 and B787. Our brand new 65” HD LCD monitor will also meet these standards by the end of this year.”


The Airline Retail Conference (ARC) is coming up on 2nd & 3rd June at London Olympia it is the leading networking platform for airline buyers and suppliers in the fields of airline retail and ancillary revenue. The event also explores the impact and implications of the ‘Always-Connected-Passenger’ To give you a little more information, please see the link here which contains all the information for the up and coming event.


We are still trying to get our hands around this past month’s  Gogo announcement – “Interest in In-Flight Connectivity Higher for Passengers Outside the U.S., According to Recent Gogo Global Study on In-Flight Connectivity.” You can find the report here. Here is what Gogo said: “(Gogo) recently conducted a global study on traveler interest in in-flight connectivity and connectivity related products and services.  The study revealed that interest in these products and services is significantly higher outside the U.S. despite the fact that fewer connected aircraft are operating internationally as compared to within the U.S.” And, we thought, US travelers had more connected, carry-on devices? What gives? We would like to hear from you on why.

  • Thales and JetBlue close the $399m LiveTV deal.
  • The LiveTV deal strengthens Thales’s IFEC product and service offering with connectivity as a key driver.
  • The acquisition increases Thales’s operational footprint in the USA and enhances the Group’s global IFEC presence.
  • Neuilly-sur-Seine, France and Irvine, California | June 10, 2014– Thales today announced the closing of the acquisition of LiveTV from JetBlue. As part of the arrangement, the two companies will form a partnership that focuses on innovation for both passengers and airline operations.

    Passengers increasingly expect broadband connectivity at all times. Airlines want to enable their passengers to have access to this connected environment within the aircraft, allowing them to interact with both social media and professional networks in the air. The acquisition of LiveTV is part of Thales’s strategy to meet passenger demands by delivering high quality, fast connections while meeting airline needs for greater operational efficiency. LiveTV has equipped more than 700 aircraft worldwide with a range of competitive products, focused on high performance connectivity services.

    LiveTV provides outstanding solutions for passenger connectivity, live
    television and wireless video services. The combination of this offering with the advanced Thales AVANT entertainment system firmly aligns the Thales In Flight Entertainment and Connectivity (IFEC) business to its long-term focus on connected services for passengers and airline operators within all industry segments, from premium to low-cost.

    Robin Hayes, President of JetBlue referenced the additional benefits of the
    deal to the airline, “JetBlue was careful to find a buyer that will be a key partner in advancing IFEC solutions. I am confident that Thales will continue to deliver innovation and long term value.”

    With more than 500 employees and projected revenues for 2014 estimated at over US$150m, Florida-based LiveTV is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Thales USA, reporting to Dominique Giannoni, vice president Thales IFEC business.

    As a result, Thales strengthens its operational footprint in the USA and
    enhances the Group’s global IFEC presence.

    New York, NY | May 1, 2014/Marketwired/– JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ: JBLU) today announced that LiveTV received a supplemental type certificate (STC) and Parts Manufacturing Authorization (PMA) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), necessary steps in the process of having high-speed Wi-Fi and LiveTV’s next generation inflight entertainment system installed on its new fleet of Airbus 321 all-core aircraft. The new LiveTV system, LiveTV 4.0, and JetBlue’s inflight Wi-Fi product, Fly-FiTM, will provide customers with a significantly enriched experience.

    The Live TV 4.0 system has a larger screen (10.1 inches for the core experience and 15.6 inches for the Mint experience), and additional content options. Through JetBlue’s partnership with DirecTV, customers will have access to more than 100 channels of live television with optional closed-captioning, a new TV guide that displays current and upcoming program information, and two additional JetBlue Features, totaling eight features each available with English and Spanish audio tracks. Additionally, JetBlue’s SiriusXM satellite radio offering will have an improved home screen where all programming information will be displayed on one screen.

    JetBlue also launched Fly-Fi last December on its Airbus 320 fleet, and currently operates 37 Fly-Fi enabled aircraft. The airline is up to 10 A320 Fly-Fi installations per month and is targeting to have its entire Airbus320 fleet complete by the end of 2014.

    “We are very excited that LiveTV has received approval from the FAA and we can now commence the next phase in this process — installing LiveTV 4.0 and Fly-Fi on the other three all-core A321 aircraft, which have been flying since last December,” said Jamie Perry, director product development, JetBlue Airways. “The next step is to receive the certification needed for the first A321 Mint aircraft.”

    JetBlue is known for its free innovative and industry-leading inflight entertainment since the airline took flight in 2000, and with a refreshed core product, true broadband Wi-Fi in the sky and an upgraded entertainment system on larger screens, that innovation will continue. The airline now has one A321 aircraft with LiveTV 4.0 and Fly-Fi installed which re-entered service on April 28, 2014. The remaining three A321 aircraft will undergo LiveTV 4.0 and Fly-Fi installation throughout the spring, with all four A321 core only aircraft expected to be in service with LiveTV 4 and Fly-Fi installed by the end of June.

    The big news this week is the Thales deal to purchase LiveTV and you can read it here. We found another blog reporter who had some interesting things to say about the deal. (Editors Note: In the past the folks at LiveTV have focused on the US, given their JetBlue customer. However, their plan for global reach has been one of Ku-band IPTV. They do have Ka-band capability in the HTS region that has a Ku overlay. With Thales, they now have the Inmarsat option that might change the order of things. Either way, they will be getting a new super-salesman, Mike Moeller… and we sure hope they keep those award winning trade show booths coming!)

    2014 Crystal Cabin Award finalists announced

    The finalists for the 2014 Crystal Cabin Awards have been announced, following deliberations by the 24-strong international judging panel, which includes representatives from airlines and all the major aircraft manufacturers, as they examined each of the 55 shortlisted entries from 12 countries. (Apologies to AIX/Reed for reformatting their release!)

    • Passenger Comfort Systems category include

    The acWAP from Lufthansa Technik, is a high-speed router that makes data-intensive applications such as online games possible.

    Armstrong Aerospace’s PowerBox, a mobile power point module that can be installed under a seat was announced.

    Zodiac Aerospace’s ISIS Aft Complex, which puts the toilet and galley modules side-by-side on the rear wall, to add 3ft to the cabin length.

    • Industrial Design & Visionary Concepts

    US finalist B/E Aerospace took a similar approach to win a place with its Advanced Lavatory, a slimline toilet module which makes it possible to integrate up to six additional seats in an aircraft.

    Zodiac’s Halo First Class design study, which is a lounge-like suite.

    Also included was French seat maker Expliseat’s lightweight titanium seat.

    • Greener Cabin, Health, Safety & Environment

    German finalist Diehl Aerospace has developed DACAPO, a power saving, self-sufficient cabin system using rechargeable and replaceable battery trolleys.

    Vision Systems has reached the final round with the Energia aircraft window in which a transparent photovoltaic film inserted into the pane simultaneously “harvests” solar energy and makes it possible to dim the window at the press of a button.

    Zodiac enters the fray with another product in the ISIS range: the Modular Lavatory, which facilitates resource-friendly customization and substitution of individual bathroom and lavatory modules.

    • Passenger Comfort Hardware

    The hygienic toilet developed by Diehl Comfort System is operated using movement sensors, requiring no contact.

    The other finalists in the category are Recaro’s ergonomic, lightweight CL3710 economy seat with extra knee room.

    ZIM Flugsitz’s EC-00 economy seat for short and medium-haul flights, including a new table and backrest concept was included.

    • The Premium Class & VIP

    Thales’ Immersive Business Class Seat was included.

    Hong Kong-based Paperclip Design’s Convertible Long Haul Seat Concept, which can be quickly converted from premium economy to a full-flat business seat.

    Zodiac Aerospac’s Premium Cabin, which not only creates more space for every passenger but also even allows room for an on-board bar.

    • Material & Components

    Zodiac Galleys impressed the judging panel with an airbag system for front-row passengers.

    Specialist Aviation’s Satto solution for minor repairs to cabin components.

    Schott’s lightweight glass structure for windows, which is not only more resistant than conventional window plastic but also making significantly larger panes possible.

    • University

    Two entrants from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have reached the final, with Sense the Transitions, an innovative geotainment concept; and the ARC Seat Concept, an aircraft seat that can withstand stresses up to 16g.

    Monash University in Australia is showing a concept for wheelchair boarding.

    The finalists’ products and concepts will be presented in the Crystal Cabin Award Gallery at Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany next month (Hall B1, Booth A41), and on the second day of the exhibition (9 April, 11am), the winners will present their concepts to the public.

    OMG!

    The IFExpress team has purposely avoided any updates of MH370 until we saw this article on Sunday that mentioned IFEyou have to read it… we were dumbstruck!

    Beacon technology has been hailed as a game-changer in retail. It uses Bluetooth to trigger the display of information on phones and tablets that is relevant to the specific location and context of the user. Connecting and communicating efficiently with passengers throughout their journey is a widely held goal in the air transport industry and SITA Lab’s research has investigated the potential of using beacon technology in today’s airports. The benefits being touted for the technology, such as low cost and wide range, have a strong appeal for anyone wanting to connect directly with customers. But SITA Lab investigated if the technology works as advertized in the real world. Trials with a leading international airline and airport have produced results that are both promising and cautionary. SITA ’s CTO, Jim Peters noted; “SITA Lab is currently building an industry registry for all beacons. The goal is that any airline will have a single point of contact to go to use any beacon deployed by airports around the world. We are already working with some early adopters but are looking for other airports, airlines and app developers who are interested in leveraging the potential of beacons in the air transport industry to join the project.”

    Editors Note: To get a bit more background on this exploding technology, here is a blurb from the Radius Network website about their Apple-based solution: “iBeacons are transmit only. They do not receive or collect any signals from mobile devices. iBeacons don’t detect the presence of your mobile device and therefore have no ability to know you are near or track your location. The bottom line, iBeacons are inherently privacy friendly. You can see them, but they can’t see you. With iBeacon technology, your mobile device is actually what detects the iBeacons. More specifically, an app installed on the mobile device can ask to be notified when the device sees a specific iBeacon. This works very similar to how geofences work when a mobile device crosses into a specific geographic location. Keep in mind that in order for a mobile device to detect and react to an iBeacon, an app MUST reside on the device and have requested the specific iBeacon identifiers it is interested in. The benefit of this approach is that it gives the user ultimate control. If a user does not want to interact with iBeacons, he or she can opt-out by not allowing the app to use location services (iOS), turning Bluetooth off, or uninstalling the app on their phone.” Think GPS when using iBeacons, and we also note, that there are already some 100 apps for iBeacons in the Apple iTunes store today. Android developers are spooling up as well. The underlying technology is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) based and the rechargeable transmitter units are about the size of a mint tin that can run for days without a charge. If you want to build your own iBeacon application, check out the Travel Radar App in the iTunes App Store, put an iBeacon in your bag, and find your luggage before someone else does!

    ALERTS!

    • We just heard that Aircraft Cabin Systems recently was granted and registered a patent for their new retractable monitor that features a charged capacitor retract solution!
    • Watch for Telefonix get more into Connectivity with the addition of Jim Costello to their staff!
    • If you are looking for an Electrical or Electro-Mechanical engineering job opportunity in the greater Seattle area (Kirkland/Redmond WA), we will send you contact information by email. Send a note to plwiseman@gmail.com and mark your email “Jobs” in the subject heading, the rest is up to you

    Melbourne, Florida | March 13, 2014–

    Thales today signed a binding agreement to acquire LiveTV, JetBlue’s fully-owned subsidiary for a total of US$400m dollars. The sale which is subject to regulatory and other approvals is expected to be completed in mid-2014.

    Founded in 1998 in Melbourne, Florida (United States of America) LiveTV provides In-Flight Entertainment solutions for Seat Back, Regional Live Television, Wireless Video and Global Live television, and Connectivity solutions covering Ka-Band Broadband, Multi Band Broadband(Ku, Ka and L-Band), LiveAero and Regional Satellite Radio. With estimated revenues for 2014 projected at over US$150m, it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways and today employs around 450 people.

    LiveTV has been a pioneer in the field of TV and more recently high speed airline and passenger Internet and communications services. LiveTV has equipped more than 700 aircraft worldwide with a range of extremely competitive products.

    “LiveTV is a great strategic fit for Thales, commented Jean-Bernard Lévy, Chairman and CEO Thales. It will improve our positioning in the high growth business of In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity. Our aim is to offer the highest performance, and most competitive and flexible connectivity solution to airlines regardless of their fleet-size, aircraft type or route structure.”

    “Passengers increasingly expect broadband internet services at home, at work and on the move. Airlines want to enable their passengers to have access to this connected environment within the aircraft, allowing them to interact with both social media and professional networks while they travel. Thales will provide solutions that cater to this need” he continued.

    • Certification is for broadband and streaming entertainment system

    Melbourne, FL | September 26, 2013– 

    LiveTV, the leading innovator of inflight entertainment and connectivity solutions, has received a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for Boeing 737-900 aircraft from the Federal Aviation Administration to install satellite-based next generation Ka-band inflight airline internet and streaming entertainment systems. LiveTV has the ability to use this certification for all airlines operating 737-900 fleets.  This STC comes less than one month after receiving similar FAA STC approval for Airbus A320 installations that will be first used aboard JetBlue Airways aircraft.

    “We are leading the industry by bringing the fastest inflight connectivity to our customers,” said Glenn Latta, President of LiveTV.  “Our connectivity experience will revolutionize the inflight internet use for flights across North America and Europe.”

    “Our Ka-band satellite-based technology pioneered by ViaSat is finding new applications with more airlines,” said ViaSat Chairman and CEO Mark Dankberg. “Working with LiveTV, we believe this next-generation capability will grow in popularity the more travelers use it.”   The new ViaSat-1 Ka-band satellite is substantially faster and more economical than traditional Ku and Air-To-Ground technologies.

    – Spectrum will be utilized to boost capacity of Gogo and Gogo Biz in-flight Internet services; Airfone service to be decommissioned December 31, 2013

    Broomfield, CO | April 15, 2103– Aircell, a leading provider of in-flight connectivity equipment and services to the business aviation market, has completed its acquisition of the Airfone business unit of LiveTV, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways Corporation. The agreement includes LiveTV’s 1 MHz air-to-ground spectrum license, as well as the Airfone in-flight communications service, network infrastructure and back-office operational assets.

    “We’re delighted to welcome Airfone customers and dedicated employees to the Aircell family,” said John Wade, Aircell’s Executive Vice President and General Manager.

    With a history dating back to the 1970’s, the Airfone service currently operates on frequencies adjacent to those utilized by Aircell’s Gogo Biz in-flight Internet service in the business aviation market – as well as Gogo in the commercial airline market. To support the ongoing expansion of those services, the Airfone service will be permanently decommissioned on December 31, 2013.
    Airfone subscribers can visit www.airfonetransition.com to obtain complete details about the pending network shutdown – including timelines, FAQ’s, replacement system options, contact information and more.

    To help ease the transition for affected operators, Aircell is offering special replacement incentives on a number of its voice and Internet systems. The incentive program – available exclusively to current Airfone subscribers through December 31, 2013 – allows customers to preserve or expand their in-flight communications capabilities at below-market costs.

    “In-flight communications have become an indispensable part of the business aviation experience. To ensure operators aren’t without needed communications capabilities after the December 31 Airfone service shutdown, customers with MagnaStar units are encouraged to begin planning their transition now,” said Wade.

    For more information and assistance, Airfone service customers are invited to contact Kristi Stengl, Aircell’s Transition Concierge, at kstengl@aircell.com or phone +1.303.301.3448.

    As we noted last week, Wi-Fi was the darling of this year’s APEX extravaganza. Why Wi-Fi? Recent surveys note that almost 65% of US travelers think it important that airlines offer Wi-Fi service on domestic flights. Half of the respondents also said they would not pay for the service and a quarter said they would pay up to $5 to get email. While existing equipped planes see from 4% to 8% utilization, we expect the price to drop and the utilization go up. We also anticipate more inflight purchases as travelers are more willing to pay for goods and services on their own device. After all, they do it on the ground, so why not in the air? On to some show highlights.

    We snagged a short half hour with Inmarsat and discovered a new product rushed to market called SBTV. The system/service, under David Coiley, is designed to deliver real-time TV and near live news to passenger devices. As we understand it, the laptop-sized portable device will be brought onboard each flight, hooked in and connected to passenger devices on the plane. We also understand the Swift Broadband connected device has been performing quite well in actual tests and will be coming to market soon. Brought to life by LiveCast, a technology company in Canada, the science has been on their radar for almost ten years and from the demo we saw, it was gorgeous. Interestingly, there are no apps or drivers involved at the user end, Wi-Fi is the conduit, and frankly, we don’t know how they will serve a plane full of passengers but more on that in the future. The system features live television on-demand and airlines can customize the service by route, region or time of day, and passengers can use their laptops and Smartphones as the receiver. Inmarsat see’s the rise in on-demand services and plans to capitalize on that market model. In the last year alone, on-demand services climbed almost 18%. With over 11,000 aircraft (commercial, business, military and other) using Inmarsat services, it seemed natural that an add-on device for passenger entertainment.

    In a meeting with digEcor, we met their new Marketing Executive, Ben Fuller who is helping refocus the portable IFE company. We understand they are working with Samsung for future products and are looking toward the inclusion of casino gaming for use in countries where approved. We also understand that they have a streaming solution available on both Android and iOS. Stay tuned on this one.

    If you have never seen the “Back to the Future” DeLorean DMC-12, you might be living in a an alternate universe. Having said that, this year the LiveTV people brought the car to APEX as part of the roll out events for their new Ka band service. Marketeer Mike Moeller (Alias Doc) has the view that the show announcement of Ka band connectivity on JetBlue next year is exactly that. Mike noted that the airline will roll out free connectivity when they do and because of the economics of Ka service, it will be a value addition that will draw fliers to the airline… and it will! Using the ViaSat US network of satellites, the service will be accompanied by new hardware on the plane: a 1 Tb server with WAPs delivering 802.11 s, b, c, and n. The system features a new antenna and radome and we understand the first install is slated for later this year. As the respective satellites are deployed, we anticipate the LiveTV solution to spread to the Middle East and Europe (Middle East 2 months ago/Europe next year). Supposedly the service will be free for the first 30 aircraft, give or take a few. We understand that ViaSat will be supplying a total of 370 planes and that would cover the JetBlue and UnitedContinental installations. Moeller noted the European solution will deliver approximately 20 – 30 Mbps per plane and at that rate, we wonder if streaming services like TV or movies might also be a part of the package as well. “At $1 per person,” noted Moeller, “the system would pay for the IFE and connectivity.” We did not do the math, but we suspect most travelers would pay five times that gladly for the service. (Note: Mike Moeller also made and stared in a promo movie trailer that you must see. A take-off from the “Back to the Future” movie, it justified the car’s appearance, not to mention his acting talents. We begged Mike to put the show on YouTube but he shyly declined.)

    We are always pleasantly surprised by the BOSE products and this visit with Hratch was no different. In the past, the QuiteComfort series has been the gold standard for travelers everywhere – check out passengers on your next flight. Now, the QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Canceling headphones are even better. IFExpress tried them and they now seem to have another few db’s of noise suppression between the new cushion material and the electronics – not to mention the remote mic and control switch. And if your idea of fun is running around a track with your iPhone plugged in, we suggest their SIE2i headphones with remote mic and control – they have to be the most comfortable design ever!

    This week’s IFEC Buzz features industry newbie, Rodney Brown from SmartJog, a leading provider in the electronic service industry. Think encrypted file transfers almost anywhere in the world. You might checkout their new cloud-based file transfer solution called “Bolt” – requires no special hardware!

    Rumors, Rumors, Rumors – Sadly, we hear Terrence Bonar’s AIRVOD has filed for liquidation.

    – STC Certification Of Iridium OpenPort-Aero(SM) For A320 Aircraft Is The First For Commercial Aviation

    MELBOURNE, Florida | May 21, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — LiveTV, a wholly-owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways, has received Supplemental Type Certification (STC) for the first commercial aircraft to install the Iridium OpenPort-Aero(SM) high-speed communications platform. Iridium OpenPort-Aero delivers aviation’s only satellite communications service with fully global coverage, providing vital high-speed data and voice connectivity to aircraft around the world. Iridium Communications Inc. IRDM -0.23% operates the global Iridium® satellite network and partnered with LiveTV to develop the Iridium OpenPort-Aero platform, utilizing the Iridium OpenPort® broadband service.

    Iridium OpenPort-Aero opens the door to a plethora of in-flight communications services for Airbus 320 aircraft flight crews and passengers. Voice and data services that Iridium OpenPort-Aero supports include: Email, text messaging, internet surfing, VPN, GSM voice and data, as well as crew voice and data, including electronic flight bags (EFB), ecommerce and real-time credit card validation. This simple and ultra-low cost terminal operates worldwide and the form factor can be customized to accommodate installation requirements of nearly all aircraft.

    “The Iridium OpenPort-Aero platform is an ultra-low cost – but highly versatile – communications solution,” said Mike Moeller, Vice President of Sales, LiveTV. “With our first STC in-hand for the terminal, this really opens the door for airlines looking for low-cost connectivity solutions to support crew and passenger connectivity, such as EFBs and wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE).”

    “Iridium is proud to deliver the only aviation broadband service that works wheels-up to wheels-down around the globe,” said Gregory Ewert, Executive Vice President, Global Distribution Channels, Iridium. “The Iridium OpenPort-Aero platform provides broadband connectivity at a fraction of the price of other aviation broadband solutions. We are pleased to be at the forefront of aviation communications, with our innovative partner LiveTV, in changing the way passengers email, tweet, surf, work or otherwise communicate in flight.”

    Itasca, Illinois | May 7, 2012 — Gogo, a leader of in-flight connectivity and a pioneer in wireless in-flight digital entertainment solutions, announced today that it has reached an agreement to acquire the Airfone business unit from LiveTV, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways Corporation. The acquisition will give Gogo a 1 MHz spectrum license currently held by LiveTV.

    The 1 MHz license will be used as a supplement to Gogo’s existing 3 MHz license and is expected to enhance its’ Air-to-Ground network, which is used to provide connectivity service to commercial airlines and business aircraft over the contiguous United States and portions of Alaska. The agreement is subject to approval by the FCC and is currently under review. If approved by the FCC, the deal is expected to close later this year.

    “In many ways, Gogo has continued to expand its Air-to-Ground network and will soon launch ATG-4, which is expected to significantly improve capacity,” said Gogo’s president and CEO Michael Small. “Acquiring the 1 MHz spectrum license from LiveTV will play an integral role in our continued expansion activities and help us deliver a performance boost for end users.”

    In addition to acquiring the 1 MHz spectrum license, Gogo also will acquire all of the network infrastructure and back-office operational assets of Airfone and looks forward to working with current Airfone customers now and in the future.

    Panasonic: The Panasonic team showed up and caught our eye in three areas – Wireless, eX3 product line, and the ‘Cool Room’. Enhancements to the basic line of eX3 IFE products include a new seat electronics box we called “the turtle” because it looks like one. Incredibly, the carbon fiber or metallic impregnated plastic box fits in the palm of you hand and between the struts of an aircraft seats – it uses up zero leg room and foot space! We saw a pre-production model and this box will change SEB’s forever. We got a look at their eX Lite Server and there is a real technology story here. While we don’t have space to talk about it in this installment, the box uses 128 GB of SDXC memory! There also was an 802.11N wireless system entry that looked to be the next logical growth for the “eX” Series, and of course, the ‘Cool Room’. While there seemed to be a waning of interest to include the room in future conventions from Panasonic executives, IFExpress still finds this the heart of new development product potential at any IFEC show. Yep, we love it. the 3D flat screen display with touch controls blew us away. There is not enough space to laud Steve Sizelove and his team’s efforts to go where no other vendor has gone before. BTW, weren’t those iPads on a trolly. Hmm?

    ITAN: Leave it up to Michael Rogerson to provide a real upgrade to his IFEC offerings. We were knocked out by the new technology in his latest building block modular IFEC system. Called the “A-Series ARM” and based on the Android operating system, Michael and his team have jumped into the latest vendor offerings as an equal. Using 5 (or so) modules, customers use them and ITAN’s app offerings to build a system that covers audio, video, data, Wi-Fi, and whatever else is needed for entertainment. Michael claims that now, users can plug into the ARM seat unit and get data, power and media – all with no server. While an admitted bizjet natural, the ITAN hardware is definitely suited for single aisle operation in the commercial space. Watch this one.

    LiveTV: We will say it again: “Mike Moeller is one of the best Sales and Marketing dudes in the IFE industry.” The LiveTV cost per bit analysis is a story we will cover in an upcoming Hot Topic but suffice it to say, Moeller coined the phrase “Not all Ka Band Service is the same” and his analysis is one that needs to be understood by the IFE world. As Moeller put it, “Data costs are exceeding the price charged per passenger.” His message: delivering data to airline customers depends on the system, the data rate, the antenna capability and the aircraft location. His approach grows and adapts the jetBlue system and keeps costs in line. Without a doubt, clever xponder buying is also a must, but we will save that for later.

    Lumexis: One lesson we learned from Lumexis – there are some 21 different platforms for PED’s and that really drives the need for a monitor at each seat. They plan on true 1080p HD for their next generation of systems. They claim that they can deliver true HD to all customers on any size plane at the same time. With fiber optics, bandwidth never seems to be an issue. We were told that Lumexis is concentrating on their first customers; however, there is another in the wings and we anticipate an announcement AIX 2012.

    VT Miltope: As the OEM to many Wi-Fi and network-based systems, the military and commercial box and system manufacturer rolled out their new, small (in size only) 10/100/1000 Based Server Unit (NSUI). The 2 MCU box has a minimum 160 GB SSD, 1.8 GHz Athalon dual core processor. All this and a new president too!

    Trends
    OK, you say, what does all this new IFE stuff add up to? The trends we spotted seem to echo the past but because of newer technology, there are new directions and evolutions noted below.

    The “seat focused” IFE concept is in full throttle. At least 5 vendors used the term “seat-centric” in their presentations and as many more exhibited that concept in their product design. In a sentence, putting the electronics and content at the seat improves the reliability and passenger experience. Accordingly, the centralized control of content and programming is on the decline. Boeing and Airbus, we understand, are not fans of this approach as they loose some control of the IFE platform and is less flexible in their eyes. As a result, it may be a while before line-fit approval is secured.

    We hear there is no end to the need for connectivity with the Smartphone as one of the favorite and upcoming targets for content and data – but you knew that. Wi-Fi is the medium of choice and the folks at Gogo have proven that connectivity or no-connectivity is just a matter of cost/price. They are also proving that streaming wireless is here today and more of this trend is in the works with almost all system suppliers. Additionally, while not cheap, Wi-Fi reduces weight and wires. Watch the Virgin America/Lufthansa deal as a precursor of things to come.

    Understandably, Early Window content is pretty much ruled out for PED’s in the above mentioned Wi-Fi systems but with Early Window content being squeezed down to 30 days or less, what is the big deal? And by the way, when will Google or Microsoft front, or reduce, Wi-Fi user costs?

    SSDs are here with most opting for 128 MB. But by next year, 256 MB will be the norm and the year after, one terabyte will be common. Don’t know what an SSD is? Try Wikipedia.

    While not a trend yet, card swiping (PIN and chip) is on it’s way. Just as the Smartphone resonated with travelers, easy payments are a demand driver. While prevalent in Europe, the use in the US and elsewhere will come slowly. Watch the innovators like IFPL, AIRVOD, ITAN, and PlaneBill.

    There are a lot of small vendors with incredibly good product and product ideas. This can only mean that next year as budgets tighten, there is a good chance for industry consolidation. We smell mergers and acquisitions (M&A)!

    In the content world, there seems to be a shift away from the tennis shoe network toward more automated and wireless content update. Mind you, it is not here yet but lots of folks are working the problem vigorously.

    Finally, Ka Band connectivity was on everybody’s lips. As LiveTV put it – “Not all Ka is the same!”

    Based on the above, the APEX TC in November (8 & 9) looks to be a ‘Do Not Miss’ event. Here are the topics – Airline & Studio Perspectives on Future Technologies,  Connectivity, Wireless IFE, HD Standardization,HD/File-Based Workflow, Interoperable Master Format, Cabin Trends, Chip & PIN for PCI Compliance, ARNIC 791 Satcom Update, Ka-band Radome Status. 

    Perhaps you read about the latest LiveTV, TrueNorth Avionics, Satcom Direct hookup that was formed to bring low speed data to business aircraft, ostensibly to facilitate air-to-ground data connectivity. As you might guess, there are a couple of back stories as well. One is a new service from LiveTV called BOB (BlackBerry On Board)…and no, it has nothing to do with that old Microsoft, GUI-driven OS. The second is that the consortium mentioned above will be rolling out the Next-Generation Magnastar system in 2011, adding data services and global connectivity via Iridium to the current service package.

    At first glance, BOB is an upgrade to Magnastar, providing voice and data to the old Verizon Airfone (now LiveTV) Ground-To-Air, voice and data network, but BOB is just the beginning. TrueNorth also announced two other Magnastar hardware options, one portable and one a fixed installation, based on their own Express box, which brings worldwide email connectivity to existing satphone-equipped aircraft. With over 2,000 planes still flying the system, LiveTV envisioned a future low speed data network supported by existing and modified hardware. If you are interested in finding out a bit more about Magnastar, click here.

    Now, going beyond this email upgrade and using the 1 MHz of bandwidth (in the 800 MHz range) they purchased from an FCC auction a couple years back, LiveTV, hardware vendor TrueNorth and service provider Satcom Direct formed a team that can only be called a solution provider. This announcement was made at this past NBAA with the intent to provide an upgrade path for existing Magnastar users, as well as an affordable business service for operators not currently equipped with a Magnastar. Note that this is a CONUS service using ground stations primarily in the US. But there is more.

    TrueNorth will work with LiveTV to build an even more capable Magnastar hardware solution and if you visit their website you will get an idea into the broad capabilities of this company…specifically into satcom voice and data integration. See where this is going? Aware of the low speed nature of the BlackBerry-based system, we could not help but wonder why the next move would not be connectivity as well. Iridium appears to be the next target for TrueNorth and Magnastar. We see worldwide coverage and expect to hear this additional hookup next year. LiveTV showed their hardware at the WAEA show and we expect TrueNorth to integrate them both.

    Now, back to BOB. We wondered why a BlackBerry network, but soon realized that with over 28.5 million subscribers (As of approx. one year ago – RIM does not disclose the number today) the answer is obvious. We also noticed that there is another device that is selling better – the iPhone – and were curious about it’s applicability. We asked Bill Johnston, TrueNorth Marketing, if it would work on the network. “Yes,” he replied, “… but you must remember the delivery network from the ground is operating at 9.6 Kbps, so it’s really designed as an email system for now”. Email is email and most executives who, until this time, have had no connectivity, will have no problem with it… at least today.

    And while on the subject of data speeds, one might inquire about the future for this effort. This team knows about Ku Band and we see no reason to rule it out for Magnastar. The TrueNorth capability in this area and in connectivity in general is probably why Airbus has signed an exclusive contract with them at the NBAA show for the Airbus Corporate Jet Centre business products.

    By the way, Satcom Direct is an interesting service provider and, from one source, we were told they provide some 90% of business aircraft connectivity services today for the Fortune 500 business fleet. By looking at the intended usage of a client’s communications and data requirements, where they plan to operate, and what equipment is onboard – they recommend communication and data services, satellites, and assemble a composite billing for them… a one stop shop. We see their extensive experience in satcom services as a real plus.

    Today, LiveTV equips a bizjet by providing a laptop/WAP device that interfaces with Magnastar/TrueNorth hardware and delivers a BOB-enabled experience with virtually no hardware modification down time. You can get your plane outfitted for $10K and unlimited data for $300 per month. That’s a bargain for connectivity if you have a Magnastar system today. This might explain why TrueNorth is getting plenty of calls from business aviation operators and fractional ownership folks. But the reason why we wrote this story is because of the other calls they have been getting – the regional commercial carriers. “Designed to be powerful, easy to use and to work with any type of network, our single-box systems were designed initially for VIP and business aviation operators,” said Mark van Berkel, TrueNorth’s president, “But we’re also hearing from regional airlines, fractionals and other fleet operators that our modular, software-centric approach is a good fit for them as well.”

    New Magnastar™ system will add data, Wi-Fi and global coverage to the Airfone® network’s industry-leading voice services

    MELBOURNE, Fla., Oct. 18 /PRNewswire/ — LiveTV Airfone LLC, TrueNorth Avionics Inc. and Satcom Direct Inc. have announced plans to develop and market a next-generation Magnastar™ system that will be the first terrestrial network to encompass voice, data, Wi-Fi, smartphone support, e-mail, text messaging and multichannel VoIP for a complete business solution. Available in 2011, the new Magnastar™ system will be based on a hardware concept derived from TrueNorth’s open-architecture Simphone OpenCabin™ system, and will be available both for new customers and as an upgrade for existing Magnastar™ operators. Service will be managed by Satcom Direct and will include Airfone®’s current voice and data services while adding Iridium satellite communications when the aircraft is out of Airfone® range.

    TrueNorth and LiveTV will co-develop the new system’s hardware by combining a new Magnastar™ radio with TrueNorth’s advanced Simphone OpenCabin airborne telecom solution. The new system will use LiveTV’s exclusive 1-Mhz air-to-ground frequency license, which provides a dedicated spectrum allocation for these capabilities. Among the features that won’t change are the superior voice quality and broad coverage of Airfone®’s continental US (CONUS)-wide network. “It’s a perfect match of network, hardware and value-added services,” said Mike Moeller, VP of Sales for LiveTV. “It’s also a great way for both new and current Magnastar™ customers to affordably get the communications they want.”

    Satcom Direct will be the service provider for billing and customer support, and will also provide customers with access to its other popular airborne business services, such as Global One Number and Flight Deck Freedom. “We love the low cost, simplicity and global reach of this product,” commented Jim Jensen, President and CEO of Satcom Direct. “Many of our customers have been waiting for a direct replacement of the Magnastar™ system to become part of our Global One Number service, and the next-generation Magnastar™ system will give them the quality they have always enjoyed while adding a wealth of new capabilities.”

    MOORESTOWN, N.J. – EMS Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: ELMG) announced today that LiveTV LLC has selected the company’s EMS Formation business unit to provide rugged data storage for up to 1,000 aircraft that are deploying LiveTV systems. LiveTV is the world’s leading provider of live in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems for commercial and business airlines.

    EMS Formation will provide ToughDisk® 3500 SATA Rugged Hard Disk (TD3500 SATA) assemblies that will be integrated into LiveTV’s Content Server and System Controller (CSSC), a television video server, and the Connectivity Aircraft Server (CAS). The CAS is used with LiveTV’s low-cost Kiteline connectivity product, which allows airlines to provide passengers with free in-flight email and messaging.

    “We selected the TD3500 SATA after going through an extensive product evaluation process. EMS Formation provided the performance and price needed for a rugged data storage solution in our avionics environment,” said John Stefanelli, LiveTV’s director of procurement. “Equipping our servers with reliable data storage supports LiveTV’s ongoing efforts to have our airline passengers feel at home in the air with our in-flight TV, email, and messaging service.”

    The TD3500 SATA assembly includes a TD3500 SATA hard drive and isolation kit. The isolation kit provides vibration isolation of the hard drive, making for easier installation in the servers. The company has already shipped 100 assemblies to LiveTV and will begin making deliveries under the purchase agreement in May 2009.

    “LiveTV is one of the world’s leading providers of in-flight entertainment and connectivity,” says R. Nim Evatt, EMS Formation’s vice president and general manager. “LiveTV’s selection of ToughDisk for its in-flight rugged data storage needs demonstrates tremendous confidence in EMS Formation and our products.”

    About LiveTV

    LiveTV is the world’s leading provider of live in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems for commercial airlines. Founded in 1998 in Melbourne, Florida, LiveTV has installation and maintenance locations around the world to support the more than 500 aircraft equipped with its products. Current customers include Continental, JetBlue, Frontier, AirTran, ExpressJet, Air One, Virgin Blue and WestJet. For a full listing of products and partners, or for more information, please visit www.livetv.net. LiveTV is a wholly-owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways.

    About EMS Formation

    EMS Formation, a division of EMS Technologies (NASDAQ: ELMG), is a leading supplier of hardware and software for the aerospace, defense and transportation industries. By optimizing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology and applying its AS 9100B-certified processes, EMS Formation develops proven and qualified solutions that enable in-flight communications and entertainment, rugged data storage, airborne connectivity, and data recording and replay. Visit www.formation.com or www.ems-t.com for more information.