One nice thing about adding an additional streaming media package to a web-based entertainment portal is that activation is (relatively) easy, even across hundreds of aircraft. Gogo showed that off with its Gogo TV solution, activating hundreds of planes across multiple airlines with some simple edits to the portal. And plenty of fancy engineering to handle the content bundling, compression and transmission needs. The net result is 550+ airplanes flying with the service active today on three airlines and a fourth due online in early October.
Passengers on American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and GOL have access to the live television offering today. Japan Airlines and Japan Transocean Air will come online in October. Gogo’s Edwin Edillon, Product Manager of the Gogo TV offering explained that getting the deployment completed quickly, “It is all about existing users of the portal. So even though it was a lot of work the activation portion was pretty simple. That’s part of the beauty of this service; it just tacks on to our existing portal. It was a very smooth and successful launch for us and our airline partners.”
As with most IPTV products the value proposition is largely built around efficient packaging of the data stream from the ground to the planes. Minimizing bandwidth consumed while maximizing channels on offer is a balancing act and an area where Edillon believes Gogo has a competitive advantage.
We do statistical multiplexing. It maintains a constant quality level on all streams by ‘borrowing bits’ from other channels where necessary… The more [channel] streams, the more efficient it can ultimately be. If there are more sources to borrow bits from then the stream can be built quicker. – Edwin Edillon, Gogo TV Product Manager
There is still a licensing cost per channel to consider against the airlines’ budget for entertainment. And the bandwidth consumed by the stream remains part of the calculation as well. But Edillon sees a typical bundle of about a dozen channels being offered to the aircraft without consuming an undue volume of data.
The expectation of most airlines maxing out at a dozen channels competes well against other IPTV solutions. Southwest Airlines offers 15 channels through its Global Eagle and Panasonic Avionics (PAC) Ku-band feed. Other PAC customers typically carry far fewer channels. Airlines with a dedicated antenna for live television can easily deliver more, including the 100ish on offer by Thales‘ InFlyt product previously known as LTV4. But the cost of carrying that additional antenna is significant, especially as the IP bandwidth becomes less expensive and used more efficiently.
Gogo is also leveraging the H.265 video encoding algorithm to offload much of the decoding process to end-user devices, reducing the processing power required by the on-board server that ultimately streams the content to the passengers. The system can (and does) also deliver the TV content to embedded seatback screens on Delta’s implementation. This requires working closely with Panasonic Avionics as the screen provider and also transcoding the content into the older H.264 standard supported by that system. While that requires extra processing power on board today but the company “envisions a world where most displays are H.265, including seatbacks.” Edillon specifically noted that the upcoming Gogo Vision Touch solution launching on Delta’s A220 fleet will support the H.265 protocol on the screens from day one.
The Gogo TV solution works on both the 2Ku platform as well as Gogo’s older, single-antenna Ku-band offering.
More from APEX EXPO 2018
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- Alaska Airlines adds SkyLights’ VR headsets to IFE lineup
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- PaxEx Premium: Digging deeper on the Inmarsat/Panasonic strategic partnership
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- Bringing IoT to flight: Sensors, alerts, payments and more from APEX EXPO 2018
- PaxEx Premium: LEO connectivity testing reaches new heights
- PaxEx Premium: A LEO milestone for Global Eagle, Telesat
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