The Dubai Air Show provided plenty of positive news in the in-flight entertainment and connectivity world this week, but also some bad news. A second player is now out of the commercial aviation connectivity business.
Saudia’s upcoming A321neo and A321XLR fleet will feature Inmarsat’s GX Aviation Ka-band in-flight connectivity solution. The deal covers 35 aircraft slated to join the fleet in the coming years, and represents a series of firsts in the industry.
Riding high on the launch of the European Aviation Network earlier this year, plans are afoot to expand the air-to-ground (ATG) inflight connectivity coverage footprint. Leading that charge is a company few have heard of, in large part because it did not exist until earlier this year. SkyFive, spun off from Nokia's core business, is now running projects in at least three other markets, with one network online for testing today. CEO Thorsten Robrecht spoke with PaxEx.Aero on the sidelines of the World Aviation Festival in London this week, keen to celebrate the early accomplishments with EAN, but also to highlight significant future potential for the technology on a global scale.
As the newest supplier in the inflight connectivity market Saudi Arabia's UON by Taqnia Space faces plenty of challenges. It also is arguably the most nimble and adaptable player in the game, with plenty of opportunity to tailor its offerings and business model to airline demands as it looks to grow. During a conversation at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg earlier this month CEO Abdullah Alosaimi offered up some insight on how the company intends to do exactly that.
The first UON-equipped aircraft entered commercial service this week. The Saudia A320 HZ-ASB began passenger service with the new inflight connectivity kit installed on 10 November 2019. The aircraft serves Geneva from Saudia’s hubs in Riyadh and Jeddah.
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?!?)
Taqnia Space is on the cusp of launching its UON service with Saudia. The kit will go live on a pair of A320s later this month according to Mustafa Murad, the company’s Aero Program Head. In a conversation at the Aviation Festival in London this afternoon Murad also detailed some of the unique propositions for the company’s offering, including a business model bound to look attractive to airlines.
Connectivity installations slow slightly over the summer, allowing an opportunity to take a big picture look at the industry and where the various players sit in terms of connected aircraft and future commitments. Compared to a year ago some players have shifted positions, even as the total committed count increases. The latter is definitely good news for all involved while the former is better for some than others.
The UON inflight connectivity service from Saudi Arabia’s Taqnia Space will offer service from Europe to Asia thanks to a new deal with Eutelsat to add Ku-band capacity. The deal brings Ku-band widebeam coverage spanning Europe, the Middle East and South Asia plus an additional HTS transponder with coverage flexibility. The company is scaling up strong, but will it be enough to succeed in a crowded market?
Commercial success in the inflight connectivity business is anything but easy. That isn't stopping newcomers from trying. Saudi Arabia's Taqnia Space group launched the UON offering earlier this month and it has potential. But like other offerings in the market there are questions about how well it can scale up to meet demand (both bandwidth and profits).