Can airlines deliver a better in-flight connectivity experience if they better understand how the passenger networks are performing? That’s a major goal for NetForecast and its QMap® Inflight Internet Experience Monitoring service.
The company wants to enable airlines to track network performance to levels well beyond what a service provider SLA typically covers, ultimately delivering a better passenger experience and return on the major capital outlay of installing an in-flight Internet service on a fleet of aircraft.
We collaborated with the industry to create a specification that provides guidance for measuring and assessing passenger inflight Wi-Fi experience quality. We are excited to put that industry guidance to work with our new QMap service to empower airlines to deliver the best possible experience to their Wi-Fi connected passengers.– Rebecca Wetzel, NetForecast President
The QMap service continuously measures the passenger Wi-Fi experience from personal electronic devices, reporting on end-to-end network experience quality in near real-time. The service notifies airlines when the passenger experience degrades below pre-determined thresholds, and locates problem areas along the network path. This could be within the aircraft Wi-Fi network, between the aircraft and the ground station, or beyond that to intermediate networks and network destinations.
QMap can monitor and report on available bandwidth, latency, DNS resolution time, packet loss, and other networking metrics.
NetForecast’s focus on the end-to-end monitoring of an inflight connectivity network helps airlines and IFC providers to detail not just the link between the aircraft and the ground station, but to an individual user level. The company notes the quality of a passenger’s Wi-Fi experience depends on the aggregated quality of service delivered by all elements along the network path.
Moreover, NetForecast’s QMap service calibrates to reflect realistic performance expectations for each component of the network technology. A geosynchronous satellite connection should perform differently than cellular/ATG or low earth orbit satellite. QMap accounts for that in its configuration.
In addition to just delivering a better experience and getting more value for the major capital investment in an on-board WiFi platform, NetForecast also points out that this type of monitoring could soon save airlines money. Among the proposed updates to consumer protection rules is a requirement for airlines to refund passengers when the in-flight wifi they pay for doesn’t work.
Details on precisely what “doesn’t work” really means remain unclear. Airlines might get away with saying that the connection from the on-board server to the ground was online so that’s good enough. Or that others on board had a sufficient connection. Or they might just (continue to) refund pretty much anyone who asks, because that’s easier than figuring out if there’s a systemic problem with the gear and not everyone asks for a refund anyways.
But expect to see more of this type of solution coming to market as the rules are formalized and airlines try to pivot from just providing the service on board to making sure it really is useful for passengers and back-office use cases. Besides, delivering a usable product is going to be better for the airlines than providing refunds when it doesn’t work.
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