The first Citilink Indonesia inflight wifi connectivity installation is underway. Work to add the Inmarsat GX Aviation kit to the aircraft began recently on the first of 50 A320s contracted to receive the system. The implementation is being overseen by Mahata Aero Teknologi (MAT), and Indonesian wireless technology provider.
It was supposed to be a massive shift of market share in the inflight connectivity world. Former Panasonic Avionics executive David Bruner claimed significant numbers of Southwest Airlines aircraft would see the Global Eagle kit uninstalled, replaced with PAC's solution, along with the ongoing line-fit deliveries. Instead Global Eagle is replacing PAC on the small number of 737s that were installed. And that might not even be the largest challenge Panasonic faces today.
In the couple months since PAC's partnership announcement with Inmarsat the company has pushed a two pronged approach to its future business. One one side sits the core competencies of its inflight entertainment business. On the other, driven by many of the new faces in the company's leadership, comes a shift towards a services operation. Both sides face challenges.
Maybe it has never truly been cheap for passengers, but airlines historically took advantage of great deals from suppliers to secure inflight wifi connectivity solutions relatively inexpensively. As those vendors now seek financial stability more than market share a shift is underway. Is the era of cheap wifi over? (And did it ever really exist?!?)
Global Eagle posted strong revenue numbers in Q3, with its content and aviation connectivity segments showing particular strength. The company also announced a couple "take away" deals that see it grabbing business from competitors. Those moves come at a cost, however, especially on the connectivity side. The increased revenue from these deals over the long term is welcome but a short term cash crunch could be bad for business.
Two stories should deliver a net boost for Global Eagle headed into Thursday's earnings release. They are not both good news (and one remains unconfirmed), but the positive outweighs the negative significantly.
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??
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.
Spicejet took delivery of its first 737 MAX aircraft today, ushering in an era of growth and modernization for the carrier’s fleet. The aircraft also include Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) inflight wifi connectivity solution on board. The kit remains inactive, pending regulatory approval but multiple carriers now sit poised to connect passengers once that moment arrives.
Lufthansa Technik recently performed the first major connectivity modifications on Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Neither LHT nor the airline will confirm the customer involved but PaxEx.Aero research suggests it is the Global Eagle kit on flyDubai’s A6-MAX frame.
It was one of the worst kept secrets in the inflight connectivity world. Now it is no longer a secret. Air France finally confirmed that its single-aisle fleet will carry the Global Eagle Ku-band satellite system for its on board wifi service. The service will operate in partnership with French telecom carrier Orange.