Many announcements relating to IFEC were made at the APEX Expo in California on 15-18 September 2014. Here are some of the big stories from the show…
Inmarsat and Thales conclude GX Aviation reseller agreement
Following the news that global mobile satellite communications services provider, Inmarsat secured a GX Aviation reseller deal with Rockwell Collins, the company also secured a reseller deal with Thales. Under the terms of the agreement, the IFEC giant will be able to offer its customers GX Aviation Ka-band high-speed broadband connectivity, with Internet speeds of up to 50Mbps.
“Passengers all over the world will soon have access to high-speed Internet connections and a huge range of new connectivity applications. GX Aviation is the only service that can meet the demand from airlines for a global seamless service,” said Leo Mondale, president of aviation at Inmarsat. “We are delighted to be expanding our relationship with Thales with the addition of GX Aviation. They are a major player in the aerospace industry, as well as one of the major inflight entertainment and connectivity companies. Having Thales on board supports our goal to make GX Aviation widely available to airlines all around the world.”
“Connectivity now forms part of every conversation we have with airlines about inflight entertainment,” said Dominique Giannoni, Thales’ VP and CEO of IFEC activities. “Therefore we need to have access to the very best connectivity available, and that means we must have GX Aviation in our portfolio. It is the only Ka-band network providing consistent worldwide coverage, which is absolutely vital for airlines.”
In other Thales news, the company is also working with Honeywell Aerospace to integrate Honeywell’s JetWave hardware with Thales’ cabin network solutions for the Airbus A350 XWB and other commercial aircraft. The combined offering will give commercial airline operators and their passengers the same connectivity experience in-flight as they would have at home or work — enabling real-time TV channel viewing, live chatting, video streaming and more.
“Passengers want the freedom to stay connected in the air while traveling over land or sea,” said Jack Jacobs, VP of marketing and product management at Honeywell Aerospace. “Honeywell JetWave hardware enables aircraft to connect to GX Aviation, which will truly enhance their in-flight service offerings.”
“GX Aviation provides consistent, global and high data rate bandwidth. Combined with Thales in-flight entertainment and connectivity offerings, airlines will be able to offer to their passengers an unmatched in-flight experience onboard Airbus A350 XWB and other commercial aircraft with quality and reliability,” said Dominique Giannoni.
The global high-speed connectivity offering, targeting both passenger aircraft and business jets, will provide data rates to the aircraft of up to 50Mbps and will be available with Thales cabin network solutions in 2015. In addition, Thales will offer Honeywell’s JetWave hardware for new and existing Airbus aircraft as a selectable option.
Honeywell and Inmarsat signed an agreement in 2012 to provide global in-flight connectivity services to business, commercial and government aviation customers around the world. Under the terms of the terminal agreement, Honeywell exclusively will develop, produce and distribute the onboard hardware that will enable users to connect to Inmarsat’s GX Aviation network.
Fresh daily news on your IFE
Inflight Television International was keen to prove that IFE equipment can handle daily content updates. At the Expo, the company was producing daily World News and delivering that to seven hardware suppliers exhibiting at the event (digEcor, InFlight Entertainment Products, Donica Aviation Engineering, TEAC, Lufthansa Systems, Project Lambda / Jet Pack and DMD Phantom / Bluebox Avionics).
With this demonstration, Inflight Television International aimed to boost confidence that it can offer daily news and sports programs to airlines.
Gogo wins Vietnam Airlines IFEC deal
Aero communications service provider, Gogo, announced that it had received a bid award letter from Vietnam Airlines to provide IFEC services on Vietnam Airlines’ fleet of B787 aircraft and the majority of its A350s. The aircraft will be outfitted with a mix of Inmarsat’s new GX Aviation Ka-band service and SwiftBroadband connectivity. Gogo said that they are currently negotiating a definitive agreement, with the GX service currently expected to launch in the second half of 2015.
“This partnership with Vietnam Airlines will mark many firsts for Gogo, notably the first airline commitment to Inmarsat’s GX Aviation broadband connectivity and Gogo’s first Airbus A350 aircraft and Boeing 787 service commitment,” said Gogo’s president and CEO, Michael Small.
“GX Aviation is gathering momentum fast. The first satellite is in operation and the other two satellites are awaiting launch to support a global commercial service expected at the end of June 2015,” said Leo Mondale, president of aviation at Inmarsat. “As the technology challenges are now largely met, we are able to enter into firm contracts with airline customers, and it is particularly exciting to have Vietnam Airlines, who are expanding rapidly in the Asian market, as our GX Aviation launch customer.”
Inmarsat was often the center of attention at the show, with another announcement being the launch of the first low-cost inflight connectivity service in the Asia Pacific region. Inmarsat worked with IFE solutions brand, roKKi, to create a connectivity service that gives passengers access to instant messaging applications on their personal mobile devices during flight – which also creates a new opportunity to generate ancillary revenue.
Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband L-band satellite service powers the service, with consistent coverage on routes across the world supported by a powerful ground network. Using a Cobham four-channel satellite communication system that aggregates up to four-times 332kbps that totals up to 1.3mbps of throughput, the roKKi system is low-cost and lightweight.
“As the first service provider to launch a four-channel system on a commercial airline, we’re running the fastest Inmarsat SwiftBroadband service available in the industry today,” said Sami El Hadery, roKKi’s executive director. “Our connectivity service is lightweight yet robust. It has the capacity to support multiple concurrent users, as proven in our successful user acceptance test that had 120 passengers using the system.”
roKKi’s connectivity service is currently being deployed on AirAsia aircraft, and next year the company is looking to expand its connectivity service to provide access to emails and social media.
Enhancements made to ARINC Cabin Connect
Rockwell Collins announced enhancements for its ARINC Cabin Connect in-flight connectivity platform, which will use Inmarsat’s latest generation Ka-broadband service.
Cabin Connect will take advantage of GX Aviation’s increased bandwidth and high-speed connectivity to offer real-time TV and TV-on-demand, such as live news, sports or popular events like the Academy Awards.
Rockwell Collins also launched a new ARINC Cabin Connect capability that enables passengers to use mobile phones to send and receive SMS text messages and, where approved by aviation authorities, make voice calls over the internet while in-flight. For airlines, the application will eliminate the need for a separate on-board cellphone network, saving money and time, as well as hardware weight.
Rockwell Collins is also leveraging its information management capabilities to offer new tools to enhance airline efficiency. A new dashboard feature will allow an airline to monitor a wide variety of system-critical elements, from when an aircraft pushes back from the gate, to what percentage of the fleet is flying, to which cabin applications and services are being utilized.
“Because we offer nose-to-tail solutions, we have a tremendous amount of valuable information we can provide to airlines about their aircraft,” said Michael DiGeorge, VP of information management services. “With this dashboard, we are putting that information into an easy-to-use format that helps airlines to improve their operational decision making.”
The new capabilities are currently in development and expected to be available to coincide with the introduction of GX services on a global basis by the end of the first half of 2015.
Hubei Ali Jiatai seats to feature PAVES IFE
Rockwell Collins is teaming up with China-based airline seat maker Hubei Ali Jiatai to install PAVES on-demand in-seat IFE systems. The two companies have entered into a memorandum of understanding to achieve technical offerability for the complete IFE seat solution on Next-Generation Boeing 737 aircraft.
“As China’s airline industry rapidly expands, so will the demand for reliable, easy-to-maintain IFE systems,” said Greg Irmen, VP and general manager of flight controls and information systems for Rockwell Collins.
PAVES has a seat-centric architecture that increases reliability and prevents multi-seat disruptions. If there is a problem with a display, a quick-release mechanism means it can be easily removed and replaced.
BAE Systems makes a WISE decision for its IntelliCabin IFE system
Global Eagle Entertainment, a provider of content, connectivity and digital media solutions to airlines, announced a strategic and technological relationship with BAE Systems, a provider of defense, security and aerospace systems, to integrate its WISE inflight streaming solution with BAE Systems’ IFE offering for commercial aircraft.
WISE will provide the software backbone for the entertainment solution available with the IntelliCabin cabin management architecture, developed for applications ranging from in-seat power and dynamic LED cabin lighting, to wireless, tablet-based IFE.
The IntelliCabin IFE system offers Samsung tablets at every seat, as well as wireless support of passengers’ own devices, compatible with inflight connectivity. The IFE solution features a navigation menu and a wide range of content programming options such as movies, TV shows, a moving map, games, and digital publications.
Through its contract with BAE Systems, Global Eagle will provide its technological and digital media expertise, enabling airlines to benefit from a complete content delivery chain, ranging from software solutions to local and international content selection, distribution, technical services, delivery and support.
“Our agreement with BAE Systems is an important milestone in the deployment of wireless inflight solutions to the airline market,” commented Alexis Steinman, senior VP of software and development at GEE. “IntelliCabin is a truly innovative inflight entertainment product and the flexibility built into WISE, as an agnostic platform, allows us to deliver robust services to strategic partners like BAE Systems, providing a differentiated wireless streaming solution for passengers using mobile devices.”
El Al, ViaSat and Lufthansa Systems establish an integrated platform for IFEC
An announcement was made that El Al Israel Airlines will establish an entertainment and connectivity offering based on Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect infotainment platform and ViaSat’s ‘Exede In The Air’ high-speed connectivity service . The three parties will closely integrate all related services on-board, with the aim of technical stability, excellent performance and a seamless passenger experience.
In June 2014 El Al launched DreamStream, based on the BoardConnect WLAN system, to offer passengers on its B737s and B767s a choice of entertainment and information.
Using the new generation of ViaSat high-capacity Ka-band satellite technology, El Al will be the first airline to offer its passengers fast internet access and wireless infotainment on flights between Israel and Europe, using personl electronic devices.
“Through the partnership with Eutelsat, the benefits of next-generation Ka-band for in-flight connectivity now extend to Europe and the Mediterranean Basin,” said Don Buchman, VP of Exede Mobility. “We are looking forward to integrating this into El Al’s overall passenger experience. Our satellite system is specifically engineered to deliver high-speed internet. There’s going to be continued increasing demand from passengers for speed and bandwidth and our network system is the only one that is designed to satisfy that demand.”
Arconics goes Dutch
Arconics announced at the show that Corendon Dutch Airlines has selected its CloudStore wireless IFE software platform for installation on its B737-800 aircraft, which will enter passenger service in Q1 2015.
CloudStore streams content, retail and advertising to passengers’ own mobile devices, and is claimed to be the first IFE software platform designed to drive engagement and ancillary revenues over the entire passenger journey. The system allows the airline to understand customer behavior and refine and customize the offering in real time. The CloudStore Content Management System does away with traditional IFE media integration timelines and costs, allowing airlines to take real-time control of their IFE platform and create new ancillary revenue streams before, during and after a flight.
Founder of the Corendon Group, Atilay Uslu stated: “Our immediate goal with the IFE program is to enhance the passenger experience, but over time we expect to create new ancillary revenues. We did a comprehensive evaluation of the various IFE systems on the market, and CloudStore stood out. It gives us a one-stop-shop for the core IFE features, and allows us to add payments, e-commerce, and new retail partnerships when we need them. Equally importantly, Arconics demonstrated the ability to work with our internal technology team to deliver a system that perfectly meets our requirements. Over the coming years, CloudStore will enable us to serve our customers better and increase our ancillary revenues through innovative new offerings.”
Arconics will provide a turnkey solution for Corendon Dutch Airlines, including the software platform, mobile apps, and content licensing and encoding. Content for the go-live system will include Hollywood and Dutch movies, TV shows, music, a moving map, and destination content. Corendon chose a Flight Focus streaming hardware solution to provide the in-cabin wi-fi.
Cebu Pacific Air has successful trial of KID-Systeme wireless IFE
KID-Systeme GmbH announced the start of a trial for its wireless IFE system, named SKYfi club, on five of Philippines carrier Cebu Pacific Air’s aircraft.
SKYfi club was introduced to the market in September 2013, as a wireless streaming onboard platform for passenger and corporate aircraft. The system is based on the ALNA (Airline Network Architecture) connectivity platform, pioneered by Airbus and KID-Systeme in 2007 and deployed on more than 40 airlines around the world.
SKYfi club complements wireless internet connectivity services already available on Cebu Pacific Air´s onboard platform by offering wireless content-streaming to the passengers’ own devices, including music, movies, magazines and surveys. For the benefit of the airline and crew, KID provides comprehensive statistical tools with SKYfi.
Software upgrades, content loading and the aircraft certification were completed without any additional aircraft downtime, according to the parties. The installation was carried out by Cebu Pacific Air and supported in a joint effort by an Airbus and KID on-site team.