More than 100 Turkish Airlines 737 and A321 aircraft will be equipped with inflight wifi connectivity in the coming years. The deal, inked with Global Eagle and Turkish telecom company Profen, will see the Aircronnect Global Ku-band platform installed on the bulk of the legacy single-aisle fleet for the carrier.
By integrating our award-winning Airconnect Global Ku satellite IFC solution, Airtime Portal, content, and satellite network with Profen’s substantial teleport, regulatory, billing, and security infrastructure, we will provide Turkish Airlines’ passengers an end-to-end inflight connectivity of with high speed, full coverage and world-leading ease of access.– Per Norén, Global Eagle’s President
The deal is the latest in a string of wins for the company. To CEO Josh Marks these deals represent a vote of confidence from new customers not only that the services offered are solid, but that the financial turnaround plan underway is on track. To that point Marks suggested that the turnaround is “a quarter ahead of where we expected and we’ve been able to drive the right financial results now in conjunction with the right market results. It is rewarding to see.”
Targeting late 2020 for Global Eagle wifi on Turkish Airlines
Initial hardware sales from Global Eagle to Turkish will be recorded in the first half of 2020, but the installations will not begin immediately. Certification and activation of the first systems is expected in late 2020, with the bulk of the installations ramping up the following year.
While Global Eagle did not disclose a firm backlog or install timeline Marks notes that 30-40 installations per quarter is a cadence the company finds comfortable. Based on that pacing and the aircraft count committed as part of this deal expect to see the installs stretch into 2022.
For Turkish Airlines the deal brings a new connectivity vendor into the fold. The existing wifi-equipped aircraft carry the Panasonic Avionics eXConnect connectivity suite on board. Mixing in a second vendor adds some complexity and potential for variable performance for passengers. But it also gives the carrier greater flexibility moving forward. Such diversity of suppliers is becoming more common as airlines become more attuned to the different service and pricing levels available from suppliers.
The partnership with Profen is driven, in part, by regulations related to delivering service on domestic flights. Such services must be delivered through a local operator. Turkish Airlines also has a history of heavily favoring local partnerships when selecting vendors. One such partnership was a topic of contention as part of a lawsuit filed against Thales by a fixer claiming to have not been paid, in part, for standing up the local operation and staffing it, tied to Thales securing the inflight entertainment contract on some Turkish twin-aisle aircraft.
We need local cultural, strategic, regulatory, and financially savvy partners. We’ve worked with [Profen] for a long period of time in this process to get Turkish Airlines to sign with us. They’re a very strong professional and technologically savvy organization.– Norén
Global Eagle executives are quick to draw a distinction between the partnerships required in Turkey and those of China, where knowledge and intellectual property transfer are more pronounced. Still, this deal will see some shifts in the technology deployment that are almost certainly driven by the need to involve local vendors.
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Growing the Ku club in Europe
Global Eagle’s strategy has been to find an anchor customer in a region and then layer in additional airlines and aircraft, taking advantage of contracted Ku-band satellite capacity and coverage footprints. In Europe this includes Norwegian‘s 737NG fleet and recent additions of the Air France A320 family and LOT’s 737 MAX. Much of the Turkish route map extending from its Istanbul hub into Europe is already covered by the satellites in that area. For flights headed south into Africa or the Middle East Global Eagle can rely on capacity contracted for its FlyDubai contract to deliver the connections with minimal incremental cost.
Indeed, despite building out and demonstrating a Ka-band solution in recent years, Global Eagle’s success remains in the Ku-band space.
In general, capacity and coverage remains better for Ku solutions unless the provider owns the satellites as well (e.g. Inmarsat and Viasat). That said, Gogo pointed out recently that it expects to see more “open” Ka-band capacity online and that it has even pitched some regional Ka offerings to potential airline customers. Marks points out that the new antenna solution can easily and inexpensively swap out the aperture, switching from Ku-band to Ka-band without ripping and replacing all the hardware bolted on top of the fuselage. That could deliver some longer term value, though where and when such transitions might occur remains unclear.