Today's announcement of Garuda's deal with Inmarsat to fit its full fleet with Global Xpress for inflight connectivity came as a surprise to many in the industry. Notable among them, the other vendors still expecting the RFP process to begin in earnest. Was this announcement premature??
Fiji Airways is just weeks away from delivery of the carrier's first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. With that delivery the airline joins the ranks of carriers delivering wifi connectivity in the sky. The aircraft carries the necessary hardware for inflight connectivity on board. Official details on the vendor remain unclear but we have a pretty good idea what's under the hump.
Global Eagle took Albatross One, its flying testbed, on a field trip to Canada last week and the results proved incredibly positive. The inflight connectivity provider partnered with satellite-operator Telesat to deliver data across the Phase 1 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite and geostationary Anik F3 using a common on-board antenna from Qest and modem from Gilat. The test flight proved that transitions from the GEO satellite to LEO and back can work on the company's gimbal-mount Ka-band antenna solution. During inflight testing, the team successfully demonstrated industry-leading data upload speeds from the aircraft, engaged in uninterrupted video chatting and movie streaming, and experienced the lowest latency of any satellite connection to date.
The test flights are the latest step in Global Eagle's efforts to position itself as a technology leader in the inflight connectivity world. Company executives have talked up the new constellation since the test satellite launched at the beginning of 2018. During the recent APEX EXPO in Boston LEO connectivity was a frequent topic of conversation. For Alexis Steinman, SVP Aviation Solutions, there is no subtlety in the company's plans: "We are betting big on LEO." With this latest successful test expect that bet to continue to grow.
How does an airline go about comparing the inflight wifi connectivity options available on the 787 Dreamliner? Lots of contract details about pricing and delivery timeframes are certainly critical, but occasionally the data is summed up into two slides in a briefing deck. For Italian charter operator NEOS the contest settled between Viasat and Panasonic Avionics back in 2017. It appears the carrier chose neither vendor, but the summary of the positioning from the two finalists is intriguing.
Competition is generally good news for customers and bad news for the company that dominates a market. The recent strategic partnership announcement by Inmarsat and Panasonic Avionics will bring competition to the on-board terminal hardware for the Global Xpress (GX) inflight connectivity solution. Today's exclusive provider Honeywell appears unfazed – and even optimistic – at the developments.
As the new Thales/Spirit Airlines Ka-band inflight wifi connectivity solution inches closer to flight testing it appears necessary to dispel one rumor about timing and opine on a very different one about the antenna technology that will be used on board.
Low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations promise higher capacity and lower latency for connections. They also bring significant challenges, mostly owing to far more frequent satellite switching to maintain a connection. Add in an airplane moving though the sky and the complexity increases further. Multiple vendors are now moving through the testing process, with plans to deliver functional solutions as early as 2019, well ahead of the satellite constellations being ready for such connections.
Outgoing Spirit Airlines CEO Bob Fornaro is no stranger to the inflight connectivity world, even if his current airline is a late adopter of such services. Fornaro oversaw the fleet-wide deployment of connectivity at AirTran. He saw the value it could deliver and the pains that poor performance and limited availability caused for passengers and the airline. Now he wants to bring a new model to market and lead the connected ULCC revolution, starting with the Thales kit installed on his company's fleet. Will this secret sauce work?
After ten months of negotiations Inmarsat and Panasonic Avionics unveiled a strategic partnership late last month. The news hit just prior to APEX EXPO, a major trade show where executives from both companies fielded questions. Answers were provided but uncertainty remains about exactly what the new partnership will deliver on some fronts.
It was called "Kiteline" and it was going to revolutionize the inflight passenger experience. A light weight connectivity solution with visions of delivering core functionality, the Kiteline concept is now being emulated by Lufthansa Systems, Iridium, AirFi, fflya and more. And, unlike Kiteline's failure nearly a decade ago, these solutions are now (finally) taking flight.