What does it take to define the quality of in-flight WiFi service? How about 340 pages of documentation and more than 500 metrics? That’s what the Seamless Air Alliance offer for airlines and suppliers alike in its new Inflight Connectivity (IFC) Analysis Toolkit.
The toolkit offers benefits to airlines whether seeking new suppliers or validating the performance of their existing in-flight WiFi systems, according to Seamless Air Alliance CEO Jack Mandala. “Airlines looking for a new connectivity system can use the IFC Analysis Toolkit as a basis for building RFP criteria and comparing suppliers during the process. Airlines with existing providers, can use the toolkit to better understand the experience that passengers are having with their inflight connectivity system by ensuring they are tracking the right metrics. In both scenarios the winner is the airline passenger.”
The Seamless Air Alliance spent several years with its member organizations – including both airlines and service providers – developing the guide. The group hopes that it can ease efforts to ensure fair comparisons of service an a market where SLAs and guarantees historically ranged broadly.
Rather than measuring ping times or theoretical burst speeds for any one user on the plane at a time, the framework allows discrete measurements in multiple areas, including:
- Capture portal and authentication
- Web browsing
- Streaming media
- Backhaul networks
- Onboard monitoring agents
The toolkit is free for all members of the Seamless Air Alliance, and membership for airlines is also free. That’s a very compelling price point for airlines. And while the 340 pages and 500 metrics is a lot to consider, the framework can deliver value even if only parts are included in an airline RFP.
More broadly, the standard helps the Seamless Air Alliance better cement its foothold as an independent organization helping to define how in-flight internet systems are designed, installed, managed, and priced. The group has also been working on hardware specifications and interoperability standards, for example, allowing individual components in the on-board environment to be more easily swapped out. The group believes such standards will, over time, lower the cost of components because airlines can more easily bid out individual parts of the ecosystem to multiple suppliers.
That could work, however it also requires the specifications being seen as reasonable. One hardware manufacturer recently suggested that the Alliance-supported standards also mean significant additional cost to support edge cases, where far more simple platforms would be sufficient for most use cases and much less expensive.
Ultimately, suppliers (even members of the group) are unlikely to shift their designs too much until pressured to by customers. But once a couple major airlines press for compliance, assume that most providers will play along pretty quickly.
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