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Re-Imagining the Passenger Experience in a Post Coronavirus World

Airlines the world over have grounded large parts of their fleets and announced plans to lay off thousands of staff as they attempt to survive a near shutdown of international travel amid the widening coronavirus pandemic. The severity of the crisis has prompted carriers to turn to governments for a lifeline and according to IATA, the global industry needs bailout measures of between $150 billion and $200 billion if it is to survive. And even then, the pandemic is likely to reshape the industry with many airlines sadly failing and entirely new groupings emerging. It will also have huge ramifications for the way people fly once this is all over and whilst it might not seem like a high priority right now, airlines need to think about how they’ll adapt to the needs of entirely different passengers post coronavirus.

It goes without saying that there will be a huge amount of trepidation about travelling for many years once a semblance of normality resumes – especially amongst those from countries that have been hardest hit by the outbreak. Face masks and maybe even gloves will become standard garb for passengers keen to minimise their risk of infection, cleaning routines between turns will be stepped up a level or two and extra screening measures to detect signs of fever could emerge as the new norm in an already stressful airport experience. Even so, these steps will not be enough to reassure many passengers of their safety on-board and their behaviour will change forever. And by extension, so too will the way in which they interact with on-board technology.

While airlines will no doubt shout from the rooftops about how thoroughly they clean and disinfect tray tables, in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens and head rests pre- and post-flight in this brave new world, it is not hard to imagine passengers adopting a cocoon-like state during their journey, fearful of what, and who, they might come into contact with.

This could very well entail reduced interaction with seatback screens and passenger control units (PCUs), with a possible knock-on effect for ancillary revenue generation through these systems. Expect IFE vendors to ratchet up the wellness angle another notch and mimic seat manufacturers in announcing new, self-cleaning screens that involve the use of antimicrobial coatings. Panasonic Avionics has already moved in this direction with its nanoe air filtration system, a feature of the forthcoming NEXT platform that can extract pungent smells from the cabin and remove airborne pathogens.

New user interface technologies like eye-tracking and gesture control could also have an important role to play. Thales has previously demonstrated a prototype for next generation business-class seats, which include iris-tracking to detect when passengers are looking away or when their eyes are closed. However, both technologies are clearly immature in terms of their use on-board aircraft and far from perfect replacements for the touchscreen we’ve all become accustomed to using with expert dexterity. Indeed, it could even be that hand or arm gestures from those in adjacent seats actually decreases the feeling of distance – a concept all of us are rapidly becoming familiar with.

Despite growing familiarity with smart speakers in our everyday lives, it seems a stretch to imagine that voice control will soon become the de-facto IFE control mechanism. Offline voice recognition of multiple languages/accents would presumably take a fair bit of computing power, while in-flight connectivity (IFC) – if it is even installed alongside IFE – is not quite at the point where it could handle the sending and receiving of a huge amount of data packets to and from the cloud for analysis. Nor could cash-strapped airlines afford the associated bandwidth costs. And then there’s the not-so-trifling issue of how to filter out the array of always-present background cabin noise.

More likely then is the use of the passenger PED as a remote control for the screen in front. Interaction with one’s own device is fraught with less “danger” and many of us already use our smartphones to control other smart devices at home. Rather than a YouTube-style PIN approach to pairing PED with seatback, a more hygienic method would surely involve the use of Bluetooth or NFC. Coronavirus or not, Bluetooth will become a standard feature of IFE to enable passengers to use their own headphones and both Safran (Zii) and Panasonic Avionics have recently introduced Bluetooth capabilities on the RAVE Ultra and eX3 and NEXT systems, respectively. NFC, meanwhile, can also be used to process payments from contactless cards and mobile wallets – a key consideration now that the spotlight is firmly on the unhygienic nature of handling cash.

The use of NFC will, of course, have an important role to play as the self-service model rises to prominence. Passengers may limit their interaction with flight attendants and browse digital magazines and food and drink menus on their PEDs or on seatback screens controlled by PEDs instead of flicking through oft-touched paper versions stored in germ-harbouring seat pockets. LEVEL’s award-winning payment system, developed by Black Swan, does just this and can even save card details for simplified repeat purchases on board.

One could even make the argument that coronavirus may finally succeed where IFC and later, wireless IFE (W-IFE), failed in killing off the humble seatback screen. Airlines will be under immense pressure to shed operational spend and the high up-front and on-going costs associated with embedded IFE could be too much for some to bear. How early window content (EWC) – which has helped prolong the life of this form of IFE – is eventually dealt with by Hollywood studios will have a huge bearing on how things eventually pan out. As a result of the pandemic, many of the films that recently hit the big screen or were slated to still be in theatres are instead heading straight to home entertainment release. Trolls World Tour, for example, was due to be in cinemas on April 10th but will now be available on streaming and digital services without making a theatrical debut. This begs the question, for how long will the streaming of EWC to passenger PEDs be prohibited?

The myriad of W-IFE vendors currently active in the market will doubtless be following these events with a keen eye. If more airlines ultimately opt to eschew embedded IFE post coronavirus, what is the optimal way to consume W-IFE? Right now, many systems are installed on aircraft where there is no in-seat power, which is mind-boggling given that the two technologies are inextricably linked. No power? No IFE! And even where in-seat power is present, consuming content on a PED whilst charging the device can be uncomfortable for passengers and becomes more difficult during mealtimes when the tray table is in use. Astronics and SmartTray have sought to provide an answer to this “hold and power” question by developing a dock style wireless charging hinge mechanism integrated into the back of the tray table. Could the next step involve the use of an inductive surface above the meal tray and some sort of PED-sized “pocket” to prevent devices falling to the floor?

While there are several other benefits of inductive charging, there are numerous problems still to be ironed out. For one, the power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units with more heat dissipation, which could nullify, to some extent, any cost savings realised from not installing seatback IFE in the first place. Additionally, wireless charging takes longer, which may be of more concern on shorter journeys where W-IFE is more likely to be installed.

Heightened hygiene and sanitation concerns could, conceivably, impact on newer forms of IFE too. Portable solutions have witnessed phenomenal growth in recent years but their very nature means they are frequently touched by cabin crew, ground handlers, catering and cleaning partners. New “zero touch” portable units that can be plugged into the on-board power supply are not taken on and off the aircraft with anywhere near the same degree of regularity and could be in increased demand going forwards.

There are many unknowns at this still early stage of the outbreak and we really ought to re-iterate that medical experts believe the risk of catching a virus on a flight to be incredibly small. However, it is important for airlines and their suppliers to start looking forward and planning ahead in these unprecedented times. To this end, Valour Consultancy will continue to share unbiased insight and analysis on key trends relating to IFEC and cabin technology and our reports will be as comprehensive as they’ve always been. If you have any questions or queries about our research or want to reach out for a quick chat to brainstorm ideas, our door is always open.

Stay safe and healthy!

Valour Consultancy

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="5303|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/12c51ea9ed7611a127aa27f26be64ef1e9390fd9-scaled-e1585144762134.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="none" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] Airlines the world over have grounded large parts of their fleets and announced plans to lay off thousands of staff as they attempt to survive a near shutdown of international travel amid the widening coronavirus pandemic. The severity of the crisis has prompted carriers to turn to governments for a lifeline and according to IATA, the global industry needs bailout measures of between $150 billion and $200 billion if it is to survive. And even then, the pandemic is likely to reshape the industry with many airlines sadly failing and entirely new groupings emerging. It will also have huge ramifications for the way people fly once this is all over and whilst it might not seem like a high priority right now, airlines need to think about how they’ll adapt to the needs of entirely different passengers post coronavirus. It goes without saying that there will be a huge amount of trepidation about travelling for many years once a semblance of normality resumes – especially amongst those from countries that have been hardest hit by the outbreak. Face masks and maybe even gloves will become standard garb for passengers keen to minimise their risk of infection, cleaning routines between turns will be stepped up a level or two and extra screening measures to detect signs of fever could emerge as the new norm in an already stressful airport experience. Even so, these steps will not be enough to reassure many passengers of their safety on-board and their behaviour will change forever. And by extension, so too will the way in which they interact with on-board technology. While airlines will no doubt shout from the rooftops about how thoroughly they clean and disinfect tray tables, in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens and head rests pre- and post-flight in this brave new world, it is not hard to imagine passengers adopting a cocoon-like state during their journey, fearful of what, and who, they might come into contact with. This could very well entail reduced interaction with seatback screens and passenger control units (PCUs), with a possible knock-on effect for ancillary revenue generation through these systems. Expect IFE vendors to ratchet up the wellness angle another notch and mimic seat manufacturers in announcing new, self-cleaning screens that involve the use of antimicrobial coatings. Panasonic Avionics has already moved in this direction with its nanoe air filtration system, a feature of the forthcoming NEXT platform that can extract pungent smells from the cabin and remove airborne pathogens. New user interface technologies like eye-tracking and gesture control could also have an important role to play. Thales has previously demonstrated a prototype for next generation business-class seats, which include iris-tracking to detect when passengers are looking away or when their eyes are closed. However, both technologies are clearly immature in terms of their use on-board aircraft and far from perfect replacements for the touchscreen we’ve all become accustomed to using with expert dexterity. Indeed, it could even be that hand or arm gestures from those in adjacent seats actually decreases the feeling of distance – a concept all of us are rapidly becoming familiar with. Despite growing familiarity with smart speakers in our everyday lives, it seems a stretch to imagine that voice control will soon become the de-facto IFE control mechanism. Offline voice recognition of multiple languages/accents would presumably take a fair bit of computing power, while in-flight connectivity (IFC) – if it is even installed alongside IFE – is not quite at the point where it could handle the sending and receiving of a huge amount of data packets to and from the cloud for analysis. Nor could cash-strapped airlines afford the associated bandwidth costs. And then there’s the not-so-trifling issue of how to filter out the array of always-present background cabin noise. More likely then is the use of the passenger PED as a remote control for the screen in front. Interaction with one’s own device is fraught with less “danger” and many of us already use our smartphones to control other smart devices at home. Rather than a YouTube-style PIN approach to pairing PED with seatback, a more hygienic method would surely involve the use of Bluetooth or NFC. Coronavirus or not, Bluetooth will become a standard feature of IFE to enable passengers to use their own headphones and both Safran (Zii) and Panasonic Avionics have recently introduced Bluetooth capabilities on the RAVE Ultra and eX3 and NEXT systems, respectively. NFC, meanwhile, can also be used to process payments from contactless cards and mobile wallets – a key consideration now that the spotlight is firmly on the unhygienic nature of handling cash. The use of NFC will, of course, have an important role to play as the self-service model rises to prominence. Passengers may limit their interaction with flight attendants and browse digital magazines and food and drink menus on their PEDs or on seatback screens controlled by PEDs instead of flicking through oft-touched paper versions stored in germ-harbouring seat pockets. LEVEL’s award-winning payment system, developed by Black Swan, does just this and can even save card details for simplified repeat purchases on board. One could even make the argument that coronavirus may finally succeed where IFC and later, wireless IFE (W-IFE), failed in killing off the humble seatback screen. Airlines will be under immense pressure to shed operational spend and the high up-front and on-going costs associated with embedded IFE could be too much for some to bear. How early window content (EWC) – which has helped prolong the life of this form of IFE – is eventually dealt with by Hollywood studios will have a huge bearing on how things eventually pan out. As a result of the pandemic, many of the films that recently hit the big screen or were slated to still be in theatres are instead heading straight to home entertainment release. Trolls World Tour, for example, was due to be in cinemas on April 10th but will now be available on streaming and digital services without making a theatrical debut. This begs the question, for how long will the streaming of EWC to passenger PEDs be prohibited? The myriad of W-IFE vendors currently active in the market will doubtless be following these events with a keen eye. If more airlines ultimately opt to eschew embedded IFE post coronavirus, what is the optimal way to consume W-IFE? Right now, many systems are installed on aircraft where there is no in-seat power, which is mind-boggling given that the two technologies are inextricably linked. No power? No IFE! And even where in-seat power is present, consuming content on a PED whilst charging the device can be uncomfortable for passengers and becomes more difficult during mealtimes when the tray table is in use. Astronics and SmartTray have sought to provide an answer to this “hold and power” question by developing a dock style wireless charging hinge mechanism integrated into the back of the tray table. Could the next step involve the use of an inductive surface above the meal tray and some sort of PED-sized “pocket” to prevent devices falling to the floor? While there are several other benefits of inductive charging, there are numerous problems still to be ironed out. For one, the power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units with more heat dissipation, which could nullify, to some extent, any cost savings realised from not installing seatback IFE in the first place. Additionally, wireless charging takes longer, which may be of more concern on shorter journeys where W-IFE is more likely to be installed. Heightened hygiene and sanitation concerns could, conceivably, impact on newer forms of IFE too. Portable solutions have witnessed phenomenal growth in recent years but their very nature means they are frequently touched by cabin crew, ground handlers, catering and cleaning partners. New “zero touch” portable units that can be plugged into the on-board power supply are not taken on and off the aircraft with anywhere near the same degree of regularity and could be in increased demand going forwards. There are many unknowns at this still early stage of the outbreak and we really ought to re-iterate that medical experts believe the risk of catching a virus on a flight to be incredibly small. However, it is important for airlines and their suppliers to start looking forward and planning ahead in these unprecedented times. To this end, Valour Consultancy will continue to share unbiased insight and analysis on key trends relating to IFEC and cabin technology and our reports will be as comprehensive as they’ve always been. If you have any questions or queries about our research or want to reach out for a quick chat to brainstorm ideas, our door is always open. Stay safe and healthy! Valour Consultancy [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

The Battle for Business Jet Connectivity Supremacy

2019 was an exciting year in terms of new in-flight connectivity options for the business aviation market and in this article, we ponder whether the increased number of players each now offering a plethora of solutions can really be sustained longer term.

Historically, provision of wholesale cabin connectivity services for VIP and business aircraft has been dominated by four companies: Gogo, Viasat, Inmarsat and Iridium. Gogo now counts some 5,500 business aircraft on its air-to-ground (ATG) network, while Viasat lays claim to more than 1,100 cumulative shipments of its Ku-band system over the last decade. On the L-band side, Inmarsat and Iridium account for the bulk of the market and have done for some time. The former has built an enviable base of almost 4,000 aircraft that rely on its hugely-successful SwiftBroadband (SBB) service and over 600 using the Jet ConneX (JX) Ka-band solution. And with 10,000 aircraft installed with its services today, the latter estimates there’s a 90% chance a business jet will be using its voice services to power in-flight phone operations.

All this could be about to change, however. Over the last couple of years, a clutch of new entrants has emerged, presumably attracted by the higher margins on offer compared with the commercial aviation market. Global Eagle and Panasonic Avionics, for example, announced in 2015, their intent to target the bizliner and bizjet markets, respectively. While Global Eagle still harbours an ambition to pursue opportunities in the VVIP space through its ultra-high end PRIVA brand, Panasonic has stepped back and is concentrating solely on its role in IDAIR, a joint-venture with Lufthansa Technik.

Panasonic’s place in partnership with Astronics and Satcom Direct has since been taken by Intelsat and the trio launched FlexExec in October 2018. Installs have been temporarily suspended after the loss of the Intelsat-29e satellite, although expectations are that the service will re-launch in the early part of 2020. Until then, SES and Collins Aerospace will doubtless be looking to make hay with their new, rival Ku-band offering, LuxStream. Further down the line, OneWeb has vowed to revolutionise the connectivity market with a low-latency solution available for fitment on the lightest of bizjets that it plans to have available in the 2021/2022 timeframe.

Away from satellite-based connectivity, SmartSky Networks is in the final stages of completing its ATG network with entry-into-service and full CONUS coverage slated for 2020. Hardware is already installed on several business aircraft, including Embraer ERJs for launch customer, JSX. Rival, Gogo, as is the case with the other aforementioned players currently dominant, is not content to rest on its laurels and plans to launch an upgraded 5G ATG network the following year. Speculation persists that Gogo is also working with Gilat for its Ku-band tail-mount antenna. If true, such a solution would pit the company against Intelsat, SES and Viasat and allow it to address those business jets that travel internationally and that aren’t candidates for its bulkier fuselage mount 2Ku antenna.

Viasat hasn’t given up on its legacy Ku-band network and this year revealed new “Ku Advanced” packages with increased speeds of up to 10 Mbps and an easy migration path to its newer Ka-band system through use of existing aircraft wiring. Ka-band, of course, being a focus of Inmarsat, too. Despite its considerable early lead in this arena, the company continues to add capacity to the Global Xpress (GX) constellation. Inmarsat also has its eyes on supporting shorter intra-European flights having previously announced that the European Aviation Network (EAN) would be available for business aviation in “early 2019”, although timelines would appear to have slipped.

Last but by no means least is Iridium, which is seeking to tap into the increasing demand for backup communications systems with the recently-launched Certus solution. Due to its compact nature, Certus is also expected to find a place as a primary connectivity system on smaller aircraft for “lite connectivity” applications like in-flight messaging. As well as converting its existing customer base to Certus, Iridium will set its sights on capturing market share from L-band counterpart, Inmarsat.

But what’s so appealing about the bizav market that all these players with their many offerings are so intent on vying for a slice of the pie? As mentioned, margins in business aviation relative to air transport are much higher and while there is, surprisingly, a degree of price sensitivity around up-front equipment costs and on-going airtime fees, there is a willingness to pay for a good quality and reliable connectivity experience. Indeed, during the course of the research for our soon to publish study on the adoption of connectivity in this market, a common theme among interviewees was that non-functioning cabin connectivity is often cause to keep an aircraft on the ground. And it’s this level of heightened expectation that could make or break the prospects of those less familiar with having to provide a white glove service.

Simply put, business aviation is a very high touch market and connectivity providers need to cater to the specific demands of those operating no more than a handful of aircraft. A connectivity service needs to tie into the overall theme of making each aircraft or fleet of aircraft unique – something demonstrated by the fact interiors are often completely custom-crafted to match the exacting tastes of owners. Commercial aviation, on the other hand, is a higher volume market where low margin off-the-shelf products (premium cabin seats aside) are the order of the day. And as far as connectivity business models are concerned, airlines and their service providers have frankly struggled for years to make the paid-for approach work. For this reason, the likes of Intelsat and SES have been wise to partner with well-respected industry stalwarts like Satcom Direct and Collins Aerospace.

Though it’s impossible to say who will thrive and who might fall by the wayside in the battle for supremacy, it’s fair to say that we can most probably expect some level of consolidation in the market in the mid- to longer-term. We must remember that there is only a limited number of business aircraft that are viable candidates for many of the services being proposed. For fuselage mount solutions, there are around 500 bizliners that are large enough to accommodate large, bulky radomes. There are currently circa 6,500 large cabin jets and these – plus an extra 2,500 that are set to be added to the fleet over the next ten years – will be the prime target given that most can take a bullet-like tail radome but are not yet fitted with high-bandwidth Ku- or Ka-band connectivity. Beyond this, most of the remaining 16,000 super-midsize, midsize, light and very light business jets and a similar number of turboprops are only really suited to much less invasive ATG and L-band terminals.

A game changer will be the maturity of flat panel antenna technology, which has the potential to open up the total addressable market for high capacity satellite-based connectivity to much smaller airframes. A whole host of companies are currently working on solutions that aim to do just this but industry consensus is that we’re still several years away from market-ready products that overcome current challenges around power consumption, heat dissipation and cost. That being said, there will always be a significant chunk of smaller aircraft that never leave CONUS or Europe and are arguably most suited to an ATG solution. In this regard, the bases look well covered by Gogo, SmartSky and Inmarsat.

With all this in mind, it seems like a stretch to imagine that the bizav market can support so many different solutions. Those with ambitions to stay relevant in the long term need to ensure that they are best in class and not pursue an unwinnable race to the bottom on price, especially if it comes at the expense of a good quality experience. Anything less simply won’t be tolerated.

The competitive environment, market trends and the likely future adoption of connectivity in this space is explored in great depth in Valour Consultancy’s forthcoming report entitled “The Market for IFEC and CMS Systems on VVIP and Business Aircraftdue to publish in Q1 2020.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="5197|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]https://valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/airplane-4702807_1280.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="none" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] 2019 was an exciting year in terms of new in-flight connectivity options for the business aviation market and in this article, we ponder whether the increased number of players each now offering a plethora of solutions can really be sustained longer term. Historically, provision of wholesale cabin connectivity services for VIP and business aircraft has been dominated by four companies: Gogo, Viasat, Inmarsat and Iridium. Gogo now counts some 5,500 business aircraft on its air-to-ground (ATG) network, while Viasat lays claim to more than 1,100 cumulative shipments of its Ku-band system over the last decade. On the L-band side, Inmarsat and Iridium account for the bulk of the market and have done for some time. The former has built an enviable base of almost 4,000 aircraft that rely on its hugely-successful SwiftBroadband (SBB) service and over 600 using the Jet ConneX (JX) Ka-band solution. And with 10,000 aircraft installed with its services today, the latter estimates there's a 90% chance a business jet will be using its voice services to power in-flight phone operations. All this could be about to change, however. Over the last couple of years, a clutch of new entrants has emerged, presumably attracted by the higher margins on offer compared with the commercial aviation market. Global Eagle and Panasonic Avionics, for example, announced in 2015, their intent to target the bizliner and bizjet markets, respectively. While Global Eagle still harbours an ambition to pursue opportunities in the VVIP space through its ultra-high end PRIVA brand, Panasonic has stepped back and is concentrating solely on its role in IDAIR, a joint-venture with Lufthansa Technik. Panasonic’s place in partnership with Astronics and Satcom Direct has since been taken by Intelsat and the trio launched FlexExec in October 2018. Installs have been temporarily suspended after the loss of the Intelsat-29e satellite, although expectations are that the service will re-launch in the early part of 2020. Until then, SES and Collins Aerospace will doubtless be looking to make hay with their new, rival Ku-band offering, LuxStream. Further down the line, OneWeb has vowed to revolutionise the connectivity market with a low-latency solution available for fitment on the lightest of bizjets that it plans to have available in the 2021/2022 timeframe. Away from satellite-based connectivity, SmartSky Networks is in the final stages of completing its ATG network with entry-into-service and full CONUS coverage slated for 2020. Hardware is already installed on several business aircraft, including Embraer ERJs for launch customer, JSX. Rival, Gogo, as is the case with the other aforementioned players currently dominant, is not content to rest on its laurels and plans to launch an upgraded 5G ATG network the following year. Speculation persists that Gogo is also working with Gilat for its Ku-band tail-mount antenna. If true, such a solution would pit the company against Intelsat, SES and Viasat and allow it to address those business jets that travel internationally and that aren’t candidates for its bulkier fuselage mount 2Ku antenna. Viasat hasn’t given up on its legacy Ku-band network and this year revealed new “Ku Advanced” packages with increased speeds of up to 10 Mbps and an easy migration path to its newer Ka-band system through use of existing aircraft wiring. Ka-band, of course, being a focus of Inmarsat, too. Despite its considerable early lead in this arena, the company continues to add capacity to the Global Xpress (GX) constellation. Inmarsat also has its eyes on supporting shorter intra-European flights having previously announced that the European Aviation Network (EAN) would be available for business aviation in “early 2019”, although timelines would appear to have slipped. Last but by no means least is Iridium, which is seeking to tap into the increasing demand for backup communications systems with the recently-launched Certus solution. Due to its compact nature, Certus is also expected to find a place as a primary connectivity system on smaller aircraft for “lite connectivity” applications like in-flight messaging. As well as converting its existing customer base to Certus, Iridium will set its sights on capturing market share from L-band counterpart, Inmarsat. But what’s so appealing about the bizav market that all these players with their many offerings are so intent on vying for a slice of the pie? As mentioned, margins in business aviation relative to air transport are much higher and while there is, surprisingly, a degree of price sensitivity around up-front equipment costs and on-going airtime fees, there is a willingness to pay for a good quality and reliable connectivity experience. Indeed, during the course of the research for our soon to publish study on the adoption of connectivity in this market, a common theme among interviewees was that non-functioning cabin connectivity is often cause to keep an aircraft on the ground. And it’s this level of heightened expectation that could make or break the prospects of those less familiar with having to provide a white glove service. Simply put, business aviation is a very high touch market and connectivity providers need to cater to the specific demands of those operating no more than a handful of aircraft. A connectivity service needs to tie into the overall theme of making each aircraft or fleet of aircraft unique – something demonstrated by the fact interiors are often completely custom-crafted to match the exacting tastes of owners. Commercial aviation, on the other hand, is a higher volume market where low margin off-the-shelf products (premium cabin seats aside) are the order of the day. And as far as connectivity business models are concerned, airlines and their service providers have frankly struggled for years to make the paid-for approach work. For this reason, the likes of Intelsat and SES have been wise to partner with well-respected industry stalwarts like Satcom Direct and Collins Aerospace. Though it’s impossible to say who will thrive and who might fall by the wayside in the battle for supremacy, it’s fair to say that we can most probably expect some level of consolidation in the market in the mid- to longer-term. We must remember that there is only a limited number of business aircraft that are viable candidates for many of the services being proposed. For fuselage mount solutions, there are around 500 bizliners that are large enough to accommodate large, bulky radomes. There are currently circa 6,500 large cabin jets and these – plus an extra 2,500 that are set to be added to the fleet over the next ten years – will be the prime target given that most can take a bullet-like tail radome but are not yet fitted with high-bandwidth Ku- or Ka-band connectivity. Beyond this, most of the remaining 16,000 super-midsize, midsize, light and very light business jets and a similar number of turboprops are only really suited to much less invasive ATG and L-band terminals. A game changer will be the maturity of flat panel antenna technology, which has the potential to open up the total addressable market for high capacity satellite-based connectivity to much smaller airframes. A whole host of companies are currently working on solutions that aim to do just this but industry consensus is that we’re still several years away from market-ready products that overcome current challenges around power consumption, heat dissipation and cost. That being said, there will always be a significant chunk of smaller aircraft that never leave CONUS or Europe and are arguably most suited to an ATG solution. In this regard, the bases look well covered by Gogo, SmartSky and Inmarsat. With all this in mind, it seems like a stretch to imagine that the bizav market can support so many different solutions. Those with ambitions to stay relevant in the long term need to ensure that they are best in class and not pursue an unwinnable race to the bottom on price, especially if it comes at the expense of a good quality experience. Anything less simply won’t be tolerated. The competitive environment, market trends and the likely future adoption of connectivity in this space is explored in great depth in Valour Consultancy’s forthcoming report entitled “The Market for IFEC and CMS Systems on VVIP and Business Aircraftdue to publish in Q1 2020. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

ATG to Drive Adoption of In-Flight Connectivity in China

Mainland China has been unanimously pegged as the next big growth area in the global In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) market for some time now. The country’s aviation sector continues to grow at pace and local airlines possess largely unconnected fleets of almost 3,700 aircraft, 85 per cent of which are single aisle. According to our most recent Quarterly IFC Tracker, 168 aircraft registered to airlines in Mainland China (all wide-body) offered passenger connectivity at the end of March 2019; just 5% of the commercial active fleet.

One could be forgiven for assuming Chinese airlines will follow the lead of others, globally, and opt for satellite connectivity. Afterall, much of the limited IFC-related activity to date has been around bringing satellite-based solutions to market, including recent tie-ups between Viasat and China Satcom, and Honeywell and local service provider Air Esurfing. Furthermore, Panasonic Avionics’ Ku-band solution, which is installed on almost every Chinese aircraft equipped with IFC today, is expected to remain relevant in the coming years thanks to the company’s investment in the APSTAR 6D HTS satellite. But it seems increasingly likely that airlines in Mainland China will be presented with an alternative to satellite-based IFC in the form of China Mobile’s proposed 5G Air-To-Ground network.

China is one of a few countries that can be considered a natural fit for an ATG network. After all, it is the fourth largest in the world, in terms of landmass (behind the U.S., Canada and Russia) and the volume of aviation traffic operating within Chinese borders continues to rise; an estimated 75 per cent of narrow-body aircraft registered to local airlines operate routes exclusively within Mainland borders. Beyond these factors, the broader benefits of ATG over satellite-based solutions, specifically reduced downtime and installation costs, would no doubt appeal to those Tier 2 and 3 airlines unlikely to install a Ku- or Ka-band solution.

With the above in mind, it is no surprise various companies, such as Beijing Weibang Yuanhang Wireless Technology Co., Ltd (Weibang) and China Telecom Satellite have trialled small-scale networks in recent years. The latter is understood to still have 32 towers active and ready to go pending regulatory approval, which to date remains allusive.

In 2018, China Mobile joined this list, successfully trialling a 4G LTE network consisting of 52 ground base stations positioned across a number of high traffic routes. Now, the Mobile Network Operator (MNO) is understood to be working toward launching a full blown 5G ATG network, which will leverage a large chunk of spectrum in the 4.8-4.9 GHz band.

In our most recent report “IFC in China, India and Russia – 2019”, we have put our neck on the line to suggest this ATG concept will succeed where others have failed and become commercially active. But what is it about this proposal that stands out from those before it? For us, there are several factors.

  • China Mobile is the largest in the world, boasting 931 million mobile subscribers (as of March 2019), all of which would likely benefit from the in-flight service, driving take-rates.
  • China Mobile is a state-owned entity, a status that at the very least could speed up the regulatory process associated with launching its proposed network.
  • Crucially, Chinese aviation regulator, the CAAC, seems to be behind the proposal too, having been part of the initial 4G LTE trial in 2018 and subsequently talking up China Mobile’s intentions in a paper published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in October 2018.
  • Finally, China Mobile has surrounded itself with good company. In 2018, it partnered with the Chinese R&D subsidiary of Airbus to develop an end-to-end 5G ATG solution and a month later Chinese heavyweight, Huawei, was brought into the fold to work on the associated terminal.

But whilst there appears to be a number of factors in China Mobile’s favour, it is also important to acknowledge that some significant hurdles lie ahead. Firstly, to justify its existence, the proposed network would have to attract at least one of the major airlines, such as China Southern, China Eastern, Air China or Hainan Airlines. Whilst there appears to be genuine interest from Tier one airlines, a formal decision will likely require proof of service quality. This will understandably take time.

More fundamentally, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) will need convincing that its concerns around the network’s frequency interference with sovereign military and space applications are unfounded. Whilst this is not expected to put an end to China Mobile’s proposal, it looks likely to delay a commercial launch beyond the MNO’s suggested 2021 launch, with 2022/23 a more realistic time-frame.

Clearly then, there is still some way to go before China Mobile’s proposed ATG network becomes a reality and there is every chance this could be yet another trial that doesn’t ever make the jump to a commercially viable solution. However, the genuine momentum which seems to be building behind this concept makes it difficult to ignore when thinking about the future of IFC in China. All factors point toward this ATG proposal being the one which becomes a reality. Assuming all goes to plan for China Mobile in the next couple of years, we estimate the installed base of ATG in Mainland China will reach approximately 1,300 aircraft by the end of 2028.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="4841|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="none" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/china-654405_1280.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text] Mainland China has been unanimously pegged as the next big growth area in the global In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) market for some time now. The country’s aviation sector continues to grow at pace and local airlines possess largely unconnected fleets of almost 3,700 aircraft, 85 per cent of which are single aisle. According to our most recent Quarterly IFC Tracker, 168 aircraft registered to airlines in Mainland China (all wide-body) offered passenger connectivity at the end of March 2019; just 5% of the commercial active fleet. One could be forgiven for assuming Chinese airlines will follow the lead of others, globally, and opt for satellite connectivity. Afterall, much of the limited IFC-related activity to date has been around bringing satellite-based solutions to market, including recent tie-ups between Viasat and China Satcom, and Honeywell and local service provider Air Esurfing. Furthermore, Panasonic Avionics’ Ku-band solution, which is installed on almost every Chinese aircraft equipped with IFC today, is expected to remain relevant in the coming years thanks to the company’s investment in the APSTAR 6D HTS satellite. But it seems increasingly likely that airlines in Mainland China will be presented with an alternative to satellite-based IFC in the form of China Mobile’s proposed 5G Air-To-Ground network. China is one of a few countries that can be considered a natural fit for an ATG network. After all, it is the fourth largest in the world, in terms of landmass (behind the U.S., Canada and Russia) and the volume of aviation traffic operating within Chinese borders continues to rise; an estimated 75 per cent of narrow-body aircraft registered to local airlines operate routes exclusively within Mainland borders. Beyond these factors, the broader benefits of ATG over satellite-based solutions, specifically reduced downtime and installation costs, would no doubt appeal to those Tier 2 and 3 airlines unlikely to install a Ku- or Ka-band solution. With the above in mind, it is no surprise various companies, such as Beijing Weibang Yuanhang Wireless Technology Co., Ltd (Weibang) and China Telecom Satellite have trialled small-scale networks in recent years. The latter is understood to still have 32 towers active and ready to go pending regulatory approval, which to date remains allusive. In 2018, China Mobile joined this list, successfully trialling a 4G LTE network consisting of 52 ground base stations positioned across a number of high traffic routes. Now, the Mobile Network Operator (MNO) is understood to be working toward launching a full blown 5G ATG network, which will leverage a large chunk of spectrum in the 4.8-4.9 GHz band. In our most recent report “IFC in China, India and Russia – 2019”, we have put our neck on the line to suggest this ATG concept will succeed where others have failed and become commercially active. But what is it about this proposal that stands out from those before it? For us, there are several factors.
  • China Mobile is the largest in the world, boasting 931 million mobile subscribers (as of March 2019), all of which would likely benefit from the in-flight service, driving take-rates.
  • China Mobile is a state-owned entity, a status that at the very least could speed up the regulatory process associated with launching its proposed network.
  • Crucially, Chinese aviation regulator, the CAAC, seems to be behind the proposal too, having been part of the initial 4G LTE trial in 2018 and subsequently talking up China Mobile’s intentions in a paper published by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in October 2018.
  • Finally, China Mobile has surrounded itself with good company. In 2018, it partnered with the Chinese R&D subsidiary of Airbus to develop an end-to-end 5G ATG solution and a month later Chinese heavyweight, Huawei, was brought into the fold to work on the associated terminal.
But whilst there appears to be a number of factors in China Mobile’s favour, it is also important to acknowledge that some significant hurdles lie ahead. Firstly, to justify its existence, the proposed network would have to attract at least one of the major airlines, such as China Southern, China Eastern, Air China or Hainan Airlines. Whilst there appears to be genuine interest from Tier one airlines, a formal decision will likely require proof of service quality. This will understandably take time. More fundamentally, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) will need convincing that its concerns around the network’s frequency interference with sovereign military and space applications are unfounded. Whilst this is not expected to put an end to China Mobile’s proposal, it looks likely to delay a commercial launch beyond the MNO’s suggested 2021 launch, with 2022/23 a more realistic time-frame. Clearly then, there is still some way to go before China Mobile’s proposed ATG network becomes a reality and there is every chance this could be yet another trial that doesn’t ever make the jump to a commercially viable solution. However, the genuine momentum which seems to be building behind this concept makes it difficult to ignore when thinking about the future of IFC in China. All factors point toward this ATG proposal being the one which becomes a reality. Assuming all goes to plan for China Mobile in the next couple of years, we estimate the installed base of ATG in Mainland China will reach approximately 1,300 aircraft by the end of 2028. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

2’s Company, 28’s a Crowd: Truth and Lies in Wireless IFE

With the world and his W-IFE now seemingly involved, keeping track of developments in this market is one that becomes more difficult with every passing quarter. At last count (Q1 2019), 25 service providers had installed their respective solutions on at least one aircraft, and more are entering the fray all the time. TEAC’s new portable solution, PortaStream, launched with IBEX Airlines on April 1st, Mythopoeia is currently rolling out its streaming platform on Rossiya and Atlas Air, while Phitek’s long-delayed deployment of Cabinstream boxes on the Afrijet ATR fleet is finally underway. So there will be at least 28 active vendors when we get round to crunching the numbers for Q2 and as we’ve covered before, plenty of candidates providing infotainment solutions in other transportation markets that may also decide they want a piece of the action.

Even so, the market is what the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) would define as “moderately concentrated” – 1,693 being the total of each companies’ squared market share. In comparison, seatback IFE, which is dominated by Panasonic Avionics and Thales, has a HHI of 4,809, which is indicative of a highly concentrated marketplace. The reason for this is that the top five vendors – Gogo, Panasonic Avionics, Global Eagle, Viasat and Thales – collectively account for just over three-quarters of all aircraft with W-IFE. Each company owes their lofty position in the market share rankings primarily to their in-flight connectivity (IFC) heritage – W-IFE shares the same on-board architecture as IFC and can be bolted onto existing installations relatively easily.

Beyond this top five lies a clutch of vendors offering W-IFE solutions with no connectivity element of their own, although several have partnered with IFC providers to combine the two services. Only five of these companies have equipped more than 100 aircraft with W-IFE; Lufthansa Systems, AirFi, Safran (Zii), Immfly and Bluebox Aviation Systems. And contrary to the incredible number of competing W-IFE studies being pumped out on a near daily basis (see exhibits A, B and C), BAE systems are not active in the market and haven’t been for some time, while Bluebox Avionics became Bluebox Aviation Systems more than two years ago. Just remember folks, not all market intelligence firms were created equal. Some of us spend hours conducting real, primary research ?

The influx of vendors certainly makes sense when you consider the apparent advantages of W-IFE – less costly systems, reduced weight/fuel burn, rapid installation (in the case of portable W-IFE), lower maintenance costs, an abundance of PEDs being brought on board, a large untapped single-aisle market, the potential to generate ancillary revenues etc. But eight years after wireless streaming first came to the fore, there are problems still to be ironed out.

Chief amongst them is the apparent frustration passengers experience when dealing with app-based DRM. Whether it be confusion that on-board Wi-Fi is not necessarily the same as Wi-Fi that opens the door to the world wide web, an inability to download an app in a disconnected environment, or issues with compatibility across different mobile operating systems, it would seem that the move away from app-based DRM can’t come soon enough. For service providers, app-based DRM is undesirable for several reasons. Not only do passengers often forget to download W-IFE applications ahead of their journey, evidence is stacking up to suggest there’s a ceiling on the number of apps they are willing to download and use. And of course, apps create additional costs every time an update to an operating system is rolled out.

Another issue is the lack of in-seat power on the majority of single-aisle aircraft – the key target market for W-IFE vendors. According to our latest study, about 20% of single-aisle seats have an in-seat power outlet, compared to about 75% of available seats on twin-aisle aircraft. With no access to on-board power, there is every chance passengers won’t use W-IFE and instead, opt to preserve precious charge for when they land. Thankfully, departmental siloes that have prevented these two amenities from being deployed at the same time are showing signs of breaking down.

The question remains whether the market can sustain nigh-on 30 different vendors. It’s one thing putting together impressive looking demo solutions inexpensively. However, ensuring these solutions satisfy Hollywood studios, demonstrating PCI compliance and getting installations done under STC are all difficult, time consuming and expensive. That’s without taking into account the difficulties in facing off against established IFE players who carry more clout when it comes to getting their solutions approved for the line-fit market and who can often draw upon expansive R&D budgets of parent companies, as well as the ability to offer truly global after sales services.

Consolidation seems inevitable and it would be foolish to assume others won’t go the way of Storebox Inflight, Ocleen TV, BAE Systems and PaxLife, all of which entered and exited the market in a relatively small space of time.

As part of our aviation portfolio, and to supplement our in-depth annual deep dive into the in-flight entertainment market, Valour Consultancy delivers a quarterly tracker designed to keep those with an interest in the area updated on W-IFE installation activity and key trends. Unlike other quarterly trackers, the W-IFE tracker is extremely rich in data with various splits including airline, product type, aircraft type, sub fleet, fitment type, geographic region, connectivity and service provider and hardware partners. Its updated with input from service providers and airlines and is a must-have resource for anyone looking for an accurate and up-to-date understanding of the market.

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With the world and his W-IFE now seemingly involved, keeping track of developments in this market is one that becomes more difficult with every passing quarter. At last count (Q1 2019), 25 service providers had installed their respective solutions on at least one aircraft, and more are entering the fray all the time. TEAC’s new portable solution, PortaStream, launched with IBEX Airlines on April 1st, Mythopoeia is currently rolling out its streaming platform on Rossiya and Atlas Air, while Phitek’s long-delayed deployment of Cabinstream boxes on the Afrijet ATR fleet is finally underway. So there will be at least 28 active vendors when we get round to crunching the numbers for Q2 and as we’ve covered before, plenty of candidates providing infotainment solutions in other transportation markets that may also decide they want a piece of the action. Even so, the market is what the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) would define as “moderately concentrated” – 1,693 being the total of each companies’ squared market share. In comparison, seatback IFE, which is dominated by Panasonic Avionics and Thales, has a HHI of 4,809, which is indicative of a highly concentrated marketplace. The reason for this is that the top five vendors – Gogo, Panasonic Avionics, Global Eagle, Viasat and Thales – collectively account for just over three-quarters of all aircraft with W-IFE. Each company owes their lofty position in the market share rankings primarily to their in-flight connectivity (IFC) heritage – W-IFE shares the same on-board architecture as IFC and can be bolted onto existing installations relatively easily. Beyond this top five lies a clutch of vendors offering W-IFE solutions with no connectivity element of their own, although several have partnered with IFC providers to combine the two services. Only five of these companies have equipped more than 100 aircraft with W-IFE; Lufthansa Systems, AirFi, Safran (Zii), Immfly and Bluebox Aviation Systems. And contrary to the incredible number of competing W-IFE studies being pumped out on a near daily basis (see exhibits A, B and C), BAE systems are not active in the market and haven’t been for some time, while Bluebox Avionics became Bluebox Aviation Systems more than two years ago. Just remember folks, not all market intelligence firms were created equal. Some of us spend hours conducting real, primary research ? The influx of vendors certainly makes sense when you consider the apparent advantages of W-IFE – less costly systems, reduced weight/fuel burn, rapid installation (in the case of portable W-IFE), lower maintenance costs, an abundance of PEDs being brought on board, a large untapped single-aisle market, the potential to generate ancillary revenues etc. But eight years after wireless streaming first came to the fore, there are problems still to be ironed out. Chief amongst them is the apparent frustration passengers experience when dealing with app-based DRM. Whether it be confusion that on-board Wi-Fi is not necessarily the same as Wi-Fi that opens the door to the world wide web, an inability to download an app in a disconnected environment, or issues with compatibility across different mobile operating systems, it would seem that the move away from app-based DRM can’t come soon enough. For service providers, app-based DRM is undesirable for several reasons. Not only do passengers often forget to download W-IFE applications ahead of their journey, evidence is stacking up to suggest there’s a ceiling on the number of apps they are willing to download and use. And of course, apps create additional costs every time an update to an operating system is rolled out. Another issue is the lack of in-seat power on the majority of single-aisle aircraft – the key target market for W-IFE vendors. According to our latest study, about 20% of single-aisle seats have an in-seat power outlet, compared to about 75% of available seats on twin-aisle aircraft. With no access to on-board power, there is every chance passengers won’t use W-IFE and instead, opt to preserve precious charge for when they land. Thankfully, departmental siloes that have prevented these two amenities from being deployed at the same time are showing signs of breaking down. The question remains whether the market can sustain nigh-on 30 different vendors. It’s one thing putting together impressive looking demo solutions inexpensively. However, ensuring these solutions satisfy Hollywood studios, demonstrating PCI compliance and getting installations done under STC are all difficult, time consuming and expensive. That’s without taking into account the difficulties in facing off against established IFE players who carry more clout when it comes to getting their solutions approved for the line-fit market and who can often draw upon expansive R&D budgets of parent companies, as well as the ability to offer truly global after sales services. Consolidation seems inevitable and it would be foolish to assume others won’t go the way of Storebox Inflight, Ocleen TV, BAE Systems and PaxLife, all of which entered and exited the market in a relatively small space of time. As part of our aviation portfolio, and to supplement our in-depth annual deep dive into the in-flight entertainment market, Valour Consultancy delivers a quarterly tracker designed to keep those with an interest in the area updated on W-IFE installation activity and key trends. Unlike other quarterly trackers, the W-IFE tracker is extremely rich in data with various splits including airline, product type, aircraft type, sub fleet, fitment type, geographic region, connectivity and service provider and hardware partners. Its updated with input from service providers and airlines and is a must-have resource for anyone looking for an accurate and up-to-date understanding of the market.

I’ve Got the Power!

I’ve got the power” sang German Eurodance group, SNAP!, in their 1990 smash hit single, “The Power”. Sadly, not every aircraft in every airline in the world can be similarly boastful much to the chagrin of today’s travellers, many of whom cannot bear to be parted from power-hungry personal electronic devices (PEDs) for even the briefest of moments. With the trend towards larger displays in the smartphone market now well and truly established, the demands on batteries are greater than ever. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see people carrying precious chargers fearful of the likely scenario their device won’t last the day on a full charge. So much so, that a large proportion of us reportedly suffer from a condition known as “low-battery anxiety”.

Airlines have been installing in-seat power systems since the mid-1990s when laptops began to be proliferated. Astronics was one of the first to market when it introduced 12-15V “cigarette lighter” DC plugs on American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. AC power outlets came along in 2000 thanks to KID-Systeme but it wasn’t until 2005/2006 that we saw power supplies being integrated with power units for seatback IFE. Since then, the majority of AC and USB outlets and associated power supplies have been integrated within the IFE architecture. Thus, it is common to see USB outlets embedded either within the screen itself or elsewhere on the seat as a remote jack.

The rapid adoption of in-flight connectivity (IFC) and wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) and a general acceleration in the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend over the last few years has resulted in much increased demand for in-seat power. Expectation that connectivity be ubiquitous and also, a significant increase in the penetration of consumer devices being carried on board has propelled the number of aircraft equipped with either standalone IFC, IFC+W-IFE, or standalone W-IFE past the 10,000 mark according to our most recent data.

An Untapped Single-Aisle Segment

A large chunk of these are single-aisle aircraft, which is a market where penetration of in-seat power is currently low (about 20% of single-aisle seats have an in-seat power outlet, compared to about 75% of available seats on twin-aisle aircraft). Strangely, many carriers have not always considered IFC/W-IFE and in-seat power to be complementary technologies that really ought to go hand-in-hand – especially if advertising and e-commerce via PEDs is part of their strategy. This thinking is starting to change, however, as airlines begin breaking down departmental siloes to look at connectivity and associated technologies more holistically. GOL and AirAsia are two examples of airlines that have recently added in-seat power after beginning their respective connectivity rollouts several years ago.

We, therefore, expect the number of single-aisle seats with access to in-seat power to increase to 2.5 million in 2028 (57% of the available total). Cumulative outlet deliveries over this timeframe will be just shy of 3 million, while annual revenues are set to increase from $82 million in 2018 to $129 million in 2028. Much of this growth will be driven by the emergence of USB Type-C with Power Delivery, which can provide up to 60W of power to all types of PED, including laptops, and offers significant cost and weight advantages over 110V AC power systems.

Significant erosion in the ASP of USB systems due to increased competition will serve to dampen this revenue growth somewhat. We already know of vendors that have bid successfully in airline RFPs with solutions priced at less than $275 per seat and even more aggressive pricing can be expected in future. By comparison, an AC power system is estimated to cost in the region of $750 per seat. Today, Astronics and KID-Systeme dominate the market for in-seat power but recent high-profile wins for several newcomers point to a less duopolistic environment in future. IMAGIK (GOL, Air Europa and Neos), Inflight Canada (British Airways, Japan Airlines and Air Transat) and Burrana (a major carrier in Latin America and another in Asia-Pacific) are notable examples, while companies like True Blue Power, Eirtech Aviation Services and Mythopoeia are also picking up business.

110V AC is not Dead…

None of this is to suggest that there won’t be a role for 110V AC power to play in future – there most certainly will be. AC power offers several advantages over USB power – namely its universal nature and the fact specifications are not always changing. Additionally, AC is robust, can charge any device, and outlets normally provide 75 to 95W of power. In premium cabins, airlines will want to continue providing an array of charging options to give passengers as much choice as possible. For this reason, our expectation is that AC+USB combo outlets will be shipped in favour of traditional standalone AC outlets (with no integrated USB ports in the same housing) in all cabins going forward and also, to ease the transition to Type-C while the installed base of compatible PEDs grows. AC will also continue to be adopted for cockpit and galley applications.

While in-seat power is much more commonplace in the twin-aisle market, there is still a significant opportunity to upgrade older systems that provide low power (typically 0.5A or 0.9A). Depending on the power needs of the PED, this may only be sufficient to provide a level or trickle re-charge. That being said, it could be argued that for a passenger who plugs in their exhausted phone at the beginning of a 10-hour flight, only having access to a 0.5A power source will not really matter as it’ll most likely be fully-charged at the end of the journey. Nevertheless, it is clear that as devices become more power hungry and passenger expectation of fast charging becoming engrained, airlines will come under pressure to upgrade such equipment sooner than they might have planned.

Wireless Charging

Passenger expectation of on-board power options may also come to encompass inductive (wireless) charging. Many vendors are seeking to capitalise on airline demand to shorten the cycle time between expectations on the ground (where proliferation of wireless charging spots is rapidly accelerating) and expectations in the air. Indeed, acceptance of the technology is growing with the Wireless Power Consortium recently revealing that 66% of consumers use wireless charging at home. Given the extra real estate with which to play, we initially believed that wireless charging pads would be adopted primarily in premium cabins. But vendors are reportedly seeing interest from carriers keen to deploy the technology in economy cabins too.

Though in-cabin wireless charging has numerous benefits such as obviating the need for passengers to carry charging cables and removing issues with USB sockets being broken/shorted, there are still several problems still to be ironed out. For one, power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units better able to dissipate heat. Second, the cost and complexity of manufacturing wireless charging pads and integrating them into seats is not insignificant. Third, devices must be left on a pad to charge and cannot be moved around or easily operated whilst charging – a problem when it comes to holding a device at a favourable viewing angle. Fourth, there are lots of industry standards to meet (e.g. EMI testing) which are more stringent on aircraft.

Improving Battery Technology

Despite all the above, in-seat power might be considered immaterial if PED battery lives were able to cope with moderate to heavy usage for more than the duration of the longest flights. In airplane mode and with brightness dimmed, tests have shown that a selection of today’s leading smartphones can last well over ten hours on a single charge when left to play back continuous video loops. Obviously, this is not representative of how anyone actually uses their phone and unless the intention is for passengers to consume their own content on their own devices, having Wi-Fi disabled, which considerably prolongs battery life, is not a solution to this dilemma anyway. And even so, it is quite rare for passengers to board a plane with a device that is fully charged.

Battery technology will inevitably improve but presumably not to the point that the in-seat power market will suddenly disappear. Thus far, advances have been largely absorbed by PEDs containing bigger screens, more powerful processors and larger memory and while there are some interesting innovations on the horizon, such as Lithium-air batteries, the demand for in-seat power is only going to increase from here on in.

Valour Consultancy is a provider of high-quality market intelligence. Its latest report “The Future of Aircraft Seating and In-Seat Power” is the newest addition to the firm’s well-regarded aviation research portfolio. Developed with input from more than 30 companies across the value chain, the study includes 93 tables and charts along with extensive commentary on key market issues, technology trends and the competitive environment. For a full table of contents and report scope, visit: https://www.valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/The-Future-of-Aircraft-Seating-and-In-Seat-Power-2019-Brochure.pdf

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""] “I’ve got the power” sang German Eurodance group, SNAP!, in their 1990 smash hit single, “The Power”. Sadly, not every aircraft in every airline in the world can be similarly boastful much to the chagrin of today’s travellers, many of whom cannot bear to be parted from power-hungry personal electronic devices (PEDs) for even the briefest of moments. With the trend towards larger displays in the smartphone market now well and truly established, the demands on batteries are greater than ever. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see people carrying precious chargers fearful of the likely scenario their device won’t last the day on a full charge. So much so, that a large proportion of us reportedly suffer from a condition known as “low-battery anxiety”. Airlines have been installing in-seat power systems since the mid-1990s when laptops began to be proliferated. Astronics was one of the first to market when it introduced 12-15V “cigarette lighter” DC plugs on American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. AC power outlets came along in 2000 thanks to KID-Systeme but it wasn’t until 2005/2006 that we saw power supplies being integrated with power units for seatback IFE. Since then, the majority of AC and USB outlets and associated power supplies have been integrated within the IFE architecture. Thus, it is common to see USB outlets embedded either within the screen itself or elsewhere on the seat as a remote jack. The rapid adoption of in-flight connectivity (IFC) and wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) and a general acceleration in the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend over the last few years has resulted in much increased demand for in-seat power. Expectation that connectivity be ubiquitous and also, a significant increase in the penetration of consumer devices being carried on board has propelled the number of aircraft equipped with either standalone IFC, IFC+W-IFE, or standalone W-IFE past the 10,000 mark according to our most recent data.

An Untapped Single-Aisle Segment

A large chunk of these are single-aisle aircraft, which is a market where penetration of in-seat power is currently low (about 20% of single-aisle seats have an in-seat power outlet, compared to about 75% of available seats on twin-aisle aircraft). Strangely, many carriers have not always considered IFC/W-IFE and in-seat power to be complementary technologies that really ought to go hand-in-hand – especially if advertising and e-commerce via PEDs is part of their strategy. This thinking is starting to change, however, as airlines begin breaking down departmental siloes to look at connectivity and associated technologies more holistically. GOL and AirAsia are two examples of airlines that have recently added in-seat power after beginning their respective connectivity rollouts several years ago. We, therefore, expect the number of single-aisle seats with access to in-seat power to increase to 2.5 million in 2028 (57% of the available total). Cumulative outlet deliveries over this timeframe will be just shy of 3 million, while annual revenues are set to increase from $82 million in 2018 to $129 million in 2028. Much of this growth will be driven by the emergence of USB Type-C with Power Delivery, which can provide up to 60W of power to all types of PED, including laptops, and offers significant cost and weight advantages over 110V AC power systems. Significant erosion in the ASP of USB systems due to increased competition will serve to dampen this revenue growth somewhat. We already know of vendors that have bid successfully in airline RFPs with solutions priced at less than $275 per seat and even more aggressive pricing can be expected in future. By comparison, an AC power system is estimated to cost in the region of $750 per seat. Today, Astronics and KID-Systeme dominate the market for in-seat power but recent high-profile wins for several newcomers point to a less duopolistic environment in future. IMAGIK (GOL, Air Europa and Neos), Inflight Canada (British Airways, Japan Airlines and Air Transat) and Burrana (a major carrier in Latin America and another in Asia-Pacific) are notable examples, while companies like True Blue Power, Eirtech Aviation Services and Mythopoeia are also picking up business.

110V AC is not Dead...

None of this is to suggest that there won’t be a role for 110V AC power to play in future – there most certainly will be. AC power offers several advantages over USB power – namely its universal nature and the fact specifications are not always changing. Additionally, AC is robust, can charge any device, and outlets normally provide 75 to 95W of power. In premium cabins, airlines will want to continue providing an array of charging options to give passengers as much choice as possible. For this reason, our expectation is that AC+USB combo outlets will be shipped in favour of traditional standalone AC outlets (with no integrated USB ports in the same housing) in all cabins going forward and also, to ease the transition to Type-C while the installed base of compatible PEDs grows. AC will also continue to be adopted for cockpit and galley applications. While in-seat power is much more commonplace in the twin-aisle market, there is still a significant opportunity to upgrade older systems that provide low power (typically 0.5A or 0.9A). Depending on the power needs of the PED, this may only be sufficient to provide a level or trickle re-charge. That being said, it could be argued that for a passenger who plugs in their exhausted phone at the beginning of a 10-hour flight, only having access to a 0.5A power source will not really matter as it’ll most likely be fully-charged at the end of the journey. Nevertheless, it is clear that as devices become more power hungry and passenger expectation of fast charging becoming engrained, airlines will come under pressure to upgrade such equipment sooner than they might have planned.

Wireless Charging

Passenger expectation of on-board power options may also come to encompass inductive (wireless) charging. Many vendors are seeking to capitalise on airline demand to shorten the cycle time between expectations on the ground (where proliferation of wireless charging spots is rapidly accelerating) and expectations in the air. Indeed, acceptance of the technology is growing with the Wireless Power Consortium recently revealing that 66% of consumers use wireless charging at home. Given the extra real estate with which to play, we initially believed that wireless charging pads would be adopted primarily in premium cabins. But vendors are reportedly seeing interest from carriers keen to deploy the technology in economy cabins too. Though in-cabin wireless charging has numerous benefits such as obviating the need for passengers to carry charging cables and removing issues with USB sockets being broken/shorted, there are still several problems still to be ironed out. For one, power efficiency of inductive charging pads is currently 60-70%, compared to >90% for traditional outlets. This requires bigger, more expensive power supply units better able to dissipate heat. Second, the cost and complexity of manufacturing wireless charging pads and integrating them into seats is not insignificant. Third, devices must be left on a pad to charge and cannot be moved around or easily operated whilst charging – a problem when it comes to holding a device at a favourable viewing angle. Fourth, there are lots of industry standards to meet (e.g. EMI testing) which are more stringent on aircraft.

Improving Battery Technology

Despite all the above, in-seat power might be considered immaterial if PED battery lives were able to cope with moderate to heavy usage for more than the duration of the longest flights. In airplane mode and with brightness dimmed, tests have shown that a selection of today’s leading smartphones can last well over ten hours on a single charge when left to play back continuous video loops. Obviously, this is not representative of how anyone actually uses their phone and unless the intention is for passengers to consume their own content on their own devices, having Wi-Fi disabled, which considerably prolongs battery life, is not a solution to this dilemma anyway. And even so, it is quite rare for passengers to board a plane with a device that is fully charged. Battery technology will inevitably improve but presumably not to the point that the in-seat power market will suddenly disappear. Thus far, advances have been largely absorbed by PEDs containing bigger screens, more powerful processors and larger memory and while there are some interesting innovations on the horizon, such as Lithium-air batteries, the demand for in-seat power is only going to increase from here on in. Valour Consultancy is a provider of high-quality market intelligence. Its latest report “The Future of Aircraft Seating and In-Seat Power” is the newest addition to the firm’s well-regarded aviation research portfolio. Developed with input from more than 30 companies across the value chain, the study includes 93 tables and charts along with extensive commentary on key market issues, technology trends and the competitive environment. For a full table of contents and report scope, visit: https://www.valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/The-Future-of-Aircraft-Seating-and-In-Seat-Power-2019-Brochure.pdf [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Seat-back In-Flight Entertainment is NOT Dying!

It might not be a date that immediately evokes strong memories but cast your mind back, if you will, to January 25th, 2017. Donald Trump was just getting his feet under the White House desk after a shock election victory two months’ prior, Roger Federer was rolling back the years on his way to capturing a remarkable 18th grand slam at the Australian Open and, lest we forget, news outlets the world over were united in sounding the death knell for the humble seat-back in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.

And what prompted such proclamations I hear you ask? American Airlines revealed that it would be eschewing embedded IFE on new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in favour of wireless distribution of content to passengers’ own devices. Yes, the decision by one carrier not to offer the traditional seat-back IFE on one single aircraft type sent the media into a frenzy and resulted in headlines like these:

The death of in-flight entertainment? American Airlines scraps screens and tells fliers to bring their own” – The Telegraph

American Airlines to ditch seat back entertainment” – CNBC

American Airlines does away with seat-back entertainment” – The Economist

I could certainly understand the hullaballoo if American had come to such a decision for say, the 22 A350s it currently has on order, but that fact that it chose not to fit embedded IFE on some narrow-body aircraft is hardly revolutionary. Indeed, an estimated 45% of these aircraft roll off production lines without any form of IFE on board, and around one-third of the installed base still, somewhat surprisingly, carries drop-down screens (overhead IFE). It is therefore disingenuous in the extreme to imply that the adoption of wireless IFE (W-IFE) on aircraft that often don’t carry any form of IFE whatsoever is somehow tantamount to the imminent extinction of an entire class of product.

Today, nearly every single wide-body aircraft is delivered with a seat-back system and it would be much more revealing to look at whether W-IFE is making inroads into this market to establish whether a fundamental shift is taking place. The answer is that W-IFE is making inroads, but not at the expense of embedded IFE. In fact, many carriers are installing both W-IFE alongside seat-back screens on their long-haul aircraft. One reason for this is the emergence of second screening where people commonly use their personal electronic devices (PEDs) while watching another screen – a trend most prevalent amongst millennials who are accounting for an increasingly larger percentage of travellers.

Interestingly, it is Philippine Airlines (PAL), which might provide a clue as to how the industry may shake out in the not-too-distant future. Back in 2014, the carrier drew widespread criticism and mixed reviews for choosing to jettison embedded IFE on much of its long-haul fleet. Instead, PAL fitted its A330s and A340s with SITAONAIR’s ONAIR Play W-IFE offering and was heralded as the “poster boy” for the new class of streaming systems making their way to market. Fast forward to January 23rd, 2017 – a mere two days before American Airlines made shockwaves – and PAL quietly announced the return of embedded Audio/Video On-Demand (AVOD) systems on its A330s. The reader should note that its A340s are in the process of being phased out, while ONAIR Play will still be offered on the A330s, as well as on the carrier’s short-haul aircraft.

The bottom line is that when it comes to the death of embedded IFE, we’ve heard it all before. The re-birth of IFC following the demise of Connexion by Boeing in the mid-2000s was supposed to usher in a new era of in-cabin entertainment whereby passengers could stream to their hearts’ content. While the likes of JetBlue Airways, Aeromexico and QANTAS have, in recent years, struck deals with Amazon Prime (in the case of the former) and Netflix (in the case of the latter two) that allow passengers to do just this using new high-speed connectivity pipes, all continue to maintain the latest seat-back screens.

The key reason W-IFE will not cannibalise a significant chunk of the classic IFE market in the next ten years is down to the fact that almost every single wide-body is ordered with an embedded system way in advance of actual delivery. Furthermore, major Gulf carriers have indicated that they fully intend to offer seat-back screens well into the future. Emirates, for example, will install seat-back IFE on the 150 Boeing 777X aircraft that will start to enter its fleet in 2020. As long as these luxury brands continue to offer embedded systems, other flag carriers will be compelled to do likewise in order to be seen as on the cutting edge of in-cabin technology.

Another roadblock that W-IFE vendors seeking to smash into the wide-body market need to surmount is the restriction on the streaming of early window content (EWC) to passenger PEDs. Though some vendors are keen to underplay the value of EWC, passengers have come to expect that they will be able to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters on medium- and long-haul flights. To put this into perspective, Rodrigo Llaguno, Customer Experience Corporate Vice President at Aeromexico recently revealed that the airline had expected a higher take-up of passengers watching Netflix and was surprised when data revealed that people were actually watching more EWC. Regardless of the availability of EWC, there is an extremely long way to go before IFC technology can support streaming of web-based content to multiple seats on multiple aircraft and at a price that is palatable to passengers.

Relying on the bring your own device (BYOD) model has several other pitfalls. One is the assumption that passengers will bring onboard devices that are either fully charged, or contain sufficient charge for them to interact with the IFC/W-IFE systems for a sizeable portion of the flight. With many travellers now using their smartphones throughout their journey to store mobile boarding passes and to help them navigate through airports, as well as for general use, the need to re-charge on board is higher than ever. Unless PED battery life improves dramatically in coming years, in-seat power should almost always be installed alongside W-IFE and IFC. However, in-seat power comes with significant weight and cost penalties and weight and cost are, of course, two key considerations when carriers make the decision to ditch embedded systems in the first place.

Because most seats do not feature a method to keep PEDs upright and at a favourable viewing angle, passengers generally hold smartphones or tablets in their hands while resting their arms on the tray table. When watching a movie or television show for a long period of time, this can quickly result in neck and/or wrist ache. Additionally, the moment food and drink items arrive is the moment this valued arm rest takes on another purpose. Though a number of vendors have developed PED holders designed to overcome these issues, there is still plenty of room for innovation as pointed out by John Walton in this informative article on Runway Girl Network.

The recent electronics ban also highlighted the vulnerability of the W-IFE market to the ongoing fight against terrorism. Though it has now been partially lifted, any future return or extension of the ban (to smaller devices) would undoubtedly be extremely favourable to the future of seat-back systems.

For these reasons, it is hard to imagine seat-back IFE disappearing on long-range aircraft anytime soon. Rather than replacement technologies, W-IFE and IFC should be viewed as complimentary to embedded IFE. Entertainment can be amplified by connectivity, which can be viewed as a gateway to endless media and content options for everyone. Indeed, true personalisation of content and ads cannot be achieved without real-time connectivity off of the aircraft. Thus, it might be said that where there was once IFE, there will also now be IFC and where IFC existed on its own, there are opportunities too for IFE, whether wireless of wired.

Like PAL, Delta is another interesting test case. As well as providing IFC on many of its aircraft, it has also gone fleet-wide with the Gogo Vision-based “Delta Studio” W-IFE system. Whether passengers ultimately prefer to use this, the embedded system or a mixture of the two will offer insight into how the industry will develop.

Valour Consultancy is currently developing two new reports that delve more deeply into these trends. “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment – 2017” quantifies the market for four types of IFE system (embedded, wireless, overhead and portable) and provides forecasts for the growth of each. “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment Content – 2017” looks at how the demand for content is changing, particularly on routes where the flight time is shorter than the length of a typical movie.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="4932|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/IFE.png[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text] It might not be a date that immediately evokes strong memories but cast your mind back, if you will, to January 25th, 2017. Donald Trump was just getting his feet under the White House desk after a shock election victory two months’ prior, Roger Federer was rolling back the years on his way to capturing a remarkable 18th grand slam at the Australian Open and, lest we forget, news outlets the world over were united in sounding the death knell for the humble seat-back in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. And what prompted such proclamations I hear you ask? American Airlines revealed that it would be eschewing embedded IFE on new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in favour of wireless distribution of content to passengers’ own devices. Yes, the decision by one carrier not to offer the traditional seat-back IFE on one single aircraft type sent the media into a frenzy and resulted in headlines like these: “The death of in-flight entertainment? American Airlines scraps screens and tells fliers to bring their own” – The Telegraph “American Airlines to ditch seat back entertainment” – CNBC “American Airlines does away with seat-back entertainment” – The Economist I could certainly understand the hullaballoo if American had come to such a decision for say, the 22 A350s it currently has on order, but that fact that it chose not to fit embedded IFE on some narrow-body aircraft is hardly revolutionary. Indeed, an estimated 45% of these aircraft roll off production lines without any form of IFE on board, and around one-third of the installed base still, somewhat surprisingly, carries drop-down screens (overhead IFE). It is therefore disingenuous in the extreme to imply that the adoption of wireless IFE (W-IFE) on aircraft that often don’t carry any form of IFE whatsoever is somehow tantamount to the imminent extinction of an entire class of product. Today, nearly every single wide-body aircraft is delivered with a seat-back system and it would be much more revealing to look at whether W-IFE is making inroads into this market to establish whether a fundamental shift is taking place. The answer is that W-IFE is making inroads, but not at the expense of embedded IFE. In fact, many carriers are installing both W-IFE alongside seat-back screens on their long-haul aircraft. One reason for this is the emergence of second screening where people commonly use their personal electronic devices (PEDs) while watching another screen – a trend most prevalent amongst millennials who are accounting for an increasingly larger percentage of travellers. Interestingly, it is Philippine Airlines (PAL), which might provide a clue as to how the industry may shake out in the not-too-distant future. Back in 2014, the carrier drew widespread criticism and mixed reviews for choosing to jettison embedded IFE on much of its long-haul fleet. Instead, PAL fitted its A330s and A340s with SITAONAIR’s ONAIR Play W-IFE offering and was heralded as the “poster boy” for the new class of streaming systems making their way to market. Fast forward to January 23rd, 2017 – a mere two days before American Airlines made shockwaves – and PAL quietly announced the return of embedded Audio/Video On-Demand (AVOD) systems on its A330s. The reader should note that its A340s are in the process of being phased out, while ONAIR Play will still be offered on the A330s, as well as on the carrier’s short-haul aircraft. The bottom line is that when it comes to the death of embedded IFE, we’ve heard it all before. The re-birth of IFC following the demise of Connexion by Boeing in the mid-2000s was supposed to usher in a new era of in-cabin entertainment whereby passengers could stream to their hearts' content. While the likes of JetBlue Airways, Aeromexico and QANTAS have, in recent years, struck deals with Amazon Prime (in the case of the former) and Netflix (in the case of the latter two) that allow passengers to do just this using new high-speed connectivity pipes, all continue to maintain the latest seat-back screens. The key reason W-IFE will not cannibalise a significant chunk of the classic IFE market in the next ten years is down to the fact that almost every single wide-body is ordered with an embedded system way in advance of actual delivery. Furthermore, major Gulf carriers have indicated that they fully intend to offer seat-back screens well into the future. Emirates, for example, will install seat-back IFE on the 150 Boeing 777X aircraft that will start to enter its fleet in 2020. As long as these luxury brands continue to offer embedded systems, other flag carriers will be compelled to do likewise in order to be seen as on the cutting edge of in-cabin technology. Another roadblock that W-IFE vendors seeking to smash into the wide-body market need to surmount is the restriction on the streaming of early window content (EWC) to passenger PEDs. Though some vendors are keen to underplay the value of EWC, passengers have come to expect that they will be able to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters on medium- and long-haul flights. To put this into perspective, Rodrigo Llaguno, Customer Experience Corporate Vice President at Aeromexico recently revealed that the airline had expected a higher take-up of passengers watching Netflix and was surprised when data revealed that people were actually watching more EWC. Regardless of the availability of EWC, there is an extremely long way to go before IFC technology can support streaming of web-based content to multiple seats on multiple aircraft and at a price that is palatable to passengers. Relying on the bring your own device (BYOD) model has several other pitfalls. One is the assumption that passengers will bring onboard devices that are either fully charged, or contain sufficient charge for them to interact with the IFC/W-IFE systems for a sizeable portion of the flight. With many travellers now using their smartphones throughout their journey to store mobile boarding passes and to help them navigate through airports, as well as for general use, the need to re-charge on board is higher than ever. Unless PED battery life improves dramatically in coming years, in-seat power should almost always be installed alongside W-IFE and IFC. However, in-seat power comes with significant weight and cost penalties and weight and cost are, of course, two key considerations when carriers make the decision to ditch embedded systems in the first place. Because most seats do not feature a method to keep PEDs upright and at a favourable viewing angle, passengers generally hold smartphones or tablets in their hands while resting their arms on the tray table. When watching a movie or television show for a long period of time, this can quickly result in neck and/or wrist ache. Additionally, the moment food and drink items arrive is the moment this valued arm rest takes on another purpose. Though a number of vendors have developed PED holders designed to overcome these issues, there is still plenty of room for innovation as pointed out by John Walton in this informative article on Runway Girl Network. The recent electronics ban also highlighted the vulnerability of the W-IFE market to the ongoing fight against terrorism. Though it has now been partially lifted, any future return or extension of the ban (to smaller devices) would undoubtedly be extremely favourable to the future of seat-back systems. For these reasons, it is hard to imagine seat-back IFE disappearing on long-range aircraft anytime soon. Rather than replacement technologies, W-IFE and IFC should be viewed as complimentary to embedded IFE. Entertainment can be amplified by connectivity, which can be viewed as a gateway to endless media and content options for everyone. Indeed, true personalisation of content and ads cannot be achieved without real-time connectivity off of the aircraft. Thus, it might be said that where there was once IFE, there will also now be IFC and where IFC existed on its own, there are opportunities too for IFE, whether wireless of wired. Like PAL, Delta is another interesting test case. As well as providing IFC on many of its aircraft, it has also gone fleet-wide with the Gogo Vision-based “Delta Studio” W-IFE system. Whether passengers ultimately prefer to use this, the embedded system or a mixture of the two will offer insight into how the industry will develop. Valour Consultancy is currently developing two new reports that delve more deeply into these trends. “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment – 2017” quantifies the market for four types of IFE system (embedded, wireless, overhead and portable) and provides forecasts for the growth of each. “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment Content – 2017” looks at how the demand for content is changing, particularly on routes where the flight time is shorter than the length of a typical movie. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

The Internet of Aircraft Things: Benefits of eTechlog and eCabin Logbook

eTechlog

The aircraft technical log is the last known status of the aircraft in terms of its current flying hours, current maintenance state (including the carrying of any acceptable deferred defects that may affect the aircraft in operation), the fuel and fluids status for the aircraft at the point of departure, and includes signatures of engineers and pilots that have signed for certain events having been completed on the aircraft turnaround to release the aircraft back into service. The electronic techlog (eTechlog) is an electronic replacement for the paper-based logbook and can be operated on a large range of portable devices.

Though a quickly growing market, eTechlog has still not yet been widely adopted by the world’s airlines. There are several reasons for this. First, the business case is not always immediately obvious and the cost savings are perhaps not as overt as with EFB. Second, eTechlog has an impact on many different airline departments and it can be difficult for these siloes to come together in consensus. Third, the technical logbook is as important as the flight data recorder (FDR) and is therefore highly regulated. Nevertheless, the advent of the iPad – though not a panacea to all electronic processes – has helped spur adoption, while understanding of the benefits surrounding eTechlog is growing and competition is hotting up.

The benefits of eTechlog are numerous and include:

  • Improved data quality. Paper-based technical logbooks consist of handwritten notes. Moving to eTechlog ensures that there is no debate around what has been written and mistakes associated with transcribing these notes are eliminated. With eTechlog, information can be captured in legible free form or better still, using pre-defined text entries to remove any element of doubt.
  • Central booking staff are no longer required to manually enter logbook entries into back-end systems thus reducing administration costs.
  • Costs associated with the purchasing, storing, handling and transportation of paper are eradicated.
  • Data is transferred automatically to airline maintenance operations control centres via on-ground networks or IFC. This provides engineering and flight operations with real-time analysis and control. Traditionally, paper logbook pages are faxed/scanned back and this makes it difficult to guarantee the timely and accurate delivery of technical data.
  • No more compliance issues around lost logbooks, or logbooks on the wrong aircraft.
  • More efficient maintenance actions. By having access to consistent and accurate data, there is less likelihood of parts being wrongly replaced. Longer term analysis of data can also reveal trends that indicate when and why a defect may occur allowing shop visits to be scheduled accordingly.
  • For mobile eTechlog solutions (i.e. those that are not permanently mounted or installed), supplemental type certificates (STCs) are not required, which represents another large cost saving.
  • With in-flight offload of information, initial troubleshooting can begin immediately and labour/parts sent to the arrival airport to carry out any remedial action, potentially preventing or minimising delays for a faster turnaround.

Currently, there is a debate around whether there is a need to offload eTechlog data during flight. One school of thought suggests that any serious problems arising mid-flight are best tackled by the pilot who should not otherwise be concerned with entering the details of the problem in eTechlog. On the flip side, there is a strong argument for data to be sent in real-time. As mentioned in the last bullet point above, the possibility of having aircraft turned around quicker is compelling. The increase in aircraft equipped with IFC is driving the desire to send eTechlog data in flight. Though ACARS can be used, there is some trepidation around the cost and somewhat limited nature of this transmission medium. Another benefit of using IFC is that logbook data can be stored on the on-board server meaning a master copy is essentially kept on the aircraft at all times.

Despite these benefits, some airlines remain convinced that the paper-based logbook is quicker and more efficient. The challenge for industry participants is, therefore, to try and convince airlines that there are tangible cost savings to be had by implementing eTechlog. Companies interviewed for out recently published report “How the Connected Aircraft Fits into the Internet of Things” indicated that a typical ROI is in the region of 18 months, sometimes less. Conduce, one of the leading vendors in this space, claims relatively accurate data from an undisclosed airline customer shows cost savings over a five-year period are around €3-5 million. Of course, actual savings and business benefits of adopting eTechlog vary greatly and are dependent upon several factors specific to the airline. As an example, an isolated maintenance delay for a large airline consisting of 500-600 aircraft would have much less of an impact than it would on a much smaller airline with say, 20 aircraft in the fleet. Ultramain, another key eTechlog solution provider, has developed a free app called eJustify, which aims to walk airlines through how, exactly, eTechlog can be beneficial.

It should be noted that there are two distinct methods to delivering eTechlog. The first involves software loaded onto a dedicated device that is used only for this purpose. Conduce is a proponent of this approach and installs its eTechLog8 application on appropriately approved Windows tablets, which are completely locked down and managed by the company. They are supplied with a Certificate of Conformity and treated in the same as any other aircraft component and so become aircraft-centric and tail-specific. For others, eTechlog is one of many EFB applications. As such, they are pilot-centric in their use and are issued directly to the pilot who takes it on and off the aircraft.

As eTechlog adoption gathers momentum, we are likely to see a shift towards more and more solutions transmitting data during flight over IFC. Additionally, eTechlog will morph into a much more advanced solution that combines data from a myriad of onboard sensors and components. Such a scenario might see a level of communication between previously disparate aircraft systems that allow for certain logbook entries to be completed automatically, without any input from the pilot except for his or her approval. This would further reduce the pilot’s workload, ensure even more accurate data entry as well as reduce so-called no-fault found (NFF) errors.

This last point is particularly important as NFF part replacements cost airlines millions of dollars every year. For the uninitiated, NFF refers to a situation where a part is replaced to repair an apparently failed piece of equipment. When the part is returned to the factory for quality analysis or for repair and re-certification, diagnostic tests do not detect any problem. Although a rare occurrence, engineers sometimes replace a part but are unable to update the information in the technical logbook. As such, the team at the next stop may still see an action indicated in the system and replace the part again, unnecessarily.

Apart from Conduce and Ultramain, other notable vendors in this space are NVABLE and CrossConsense.

eCabin Logbook

Paper log books aren’t just the preserve of the cockpit. Crew members use cabin logbooks to record any defects they encounter in the cabin. This can include things like faulty in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems, lightbulbs that need replacing and even broken or dirty seats. These paper write-ups are handed to the pilot who then enters into the technical logbook any defects that are airworthiness related and reports them to maintenance via ACARS.

As is the case with the paper technical log, issues with illegible handwriting and manual data entry are not uncommon, while the reporting phase often happens during the aircraft’s descent when pilots are busiest. eCabin logbook is faster, more accurate, more reliable and more efficient. Additionally, devices hosting eCabin logbook software can be linked to eTechlog hardware via connectivity such as Wi-Fi Direct so that defects are automatically recorded in the latter. However, several airlines have opted for standalone eCabin logbook before embracing eTechlog, which is a broader application, and this is reflective of a phased approach to connected aircraft applications more generally.

The capabilities of the eCabin logbook will continue to expand in future. Sensors in the cabin will doubtless be able to self-report defects and record them automatically. Cabin crews would simply review entries for approval rather that reporting them manually. As with eTechlog, analysis of cabin defects over time may well reveal patterns that result in improved ability to predict and respond.

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eTechlog

The aircraft technical log is the last known status of the aircraft in terms of its current flying hours, current maintenance state (including the carrying of any acceptable deferred defects that may affect the aircraft in operation), the fuel and fluids status for the aircraft at the point of departure, and includes signatures of engineers and pilots that have signed for certain events having been completed on the aircraft turnaround to release the aircraft back into service. The electronic techlog (eTechlog) is an electronic replacement for the paper-based logbook and can be operated on a large range of portable devices. Though a quickly growing market, eTechlog has still not yet been widely adopted by the world’s airlines. There are several reasons for this. First, the business case is not always immediately obvious and the cost savings are perhaps not as overt as with EFB. Second, eTechlog has an impact on many different airline departments and it can be difficult for these siloes to come together in consensus. Third, the technical logbook is as important as the flight data recorder (FDR) and is therefore highly regulated. Nevertheless, the advent of the iPad – though not a panacea to all electronic processes – has helped spur adoption, while understanding of the benefits surrounding eTechlog is growing and competition is hotting up. The benefits of eTechlog are numerous and include:
  • Improved data quality. Paper-based technical logbooks consist of handwritten notes. Moving to eTechlog ensures that there is no debate around what has been written and mistakes associated with transcribing these notes are eliminated. With eTechlog, information can be captured in legible free form or better still, using pre-defined text entries to remove any element of doubt.
  • Central booking staff are no longer required to manually enter logbook entries into back-end systems thus reducing administration costs.
  • Costs associated with the purchasing, storing, handling and transportation of paper are eradicated.
  • Data is transferred automatically to airline maintenance operations control centres via on-ground networks or IFC. This provides engineering and flight operations with real-time analysis and control. Traditionally, paper logbook pages are faxed/scanned back and this makes it difficult to guarantee the timely and accurate delivery of technical data.
  • No more compliance issues around lost logbooks, or logbooks on the wrong aircraft.
  • More efficient maintenance actions. By having access to consistent and accurate data, there is less likelihood of parts being wrongly replaced. Longer term analysis of data can also reveal trends that indicate when and why a defect may occur allowing shop visits to be scheduled accordingly.
  • For mobile eTechlog solutions (i.e. those that are not permanently mounted or installed), supplemental type certificates (STCs) are not required, which represents another large cost saving.
  • With in-flight offload of information, initial troubleshooting can begin immediately and labour/parts sent to the arrival airport to carry out any remedial action, potentially preventing or minimising delays for a faster turnaround.
Currently, there is a debate around whether there is a need to offload eTechlog data during flight. One school of thought suggests that any serious problems arising mid-flight are best tackled by the pilot who should not otherwise be concerned with entering the details of the problem in eTechlog. On the flip side, there is a strong argument for data to be sent in real-time. As mentioned in the last bullet point above, the possibility of having aircraft turned around quicker is compelling. The increase in aircraft equipped with IFC is driving the desire to send eTechlog data in flight. Though ACARS can be used, there is some trepidation around the cost and somewhat limited nature of this transmission medium. Another benefit of using IFC is that logbook data can be stored on the on-board server meaning a master copy is essentially kept on the aircraft at all times. Despite these benefits, some airlines remain convinced that the paper-based logbook is quicker and more efficient. The challenge for industry participants is, therefore, to try and convince airlines that there are tangible cost savings to be had by implementing eTechlog. Companies interviewed for out recently published report “How the Connected Aircraft Fits into the Internet of Things” indicated that a typical ROI is in the region of 18 months, sometimes less. Conduce, one of the leading vendors in this space, claims relatively accurate data from an undisclosed airline customer shows cost savings over a five-year period are around €3-5 million. Of course, actual savings and business benefits of adopting eTechlog vary greatly and are dependent upon several factors specific to the airline. As an example, an isolated maintenance delay for a large airline consisting of 500-600 aircraft would have much less of an impact than it would on a much smaller airline with say, 20 aircraft in the fleet. Ultramain, another key eTechlog solution provider, has developed a free app called eJustify, which aims to walk airlines through how, exactly, eTechlog can be beneficial. It should be noted that there are two distinct methods to delivering eTechlog. The first involves software loaded onto a dedicated device that is used only for this purpose. Conduce is a proponent of this approach and installs its eTechLog8 application on appropriately approved Windows tablets, which are completely locked down and managed by the company. They are supplied with a Certificate of Conformity and treated in the same as any other aircraft component and so become aircraft-centric and tail-specific. For others, eTechlog is one of many EFB applications. As such, they are pilot-centric in their use and are issued directly to the pilot who takes it on and off the aircraft. As eTechlog adoption gathers momentum, we are likely to see a shift towards more and more solutions transmitting data during flight over IFC. Additionally, eTechlog will morph into a much more advanced solution that combines data from a myriad of onboard sensors and components. Such a scenario might see a level of communication between previously disparate aircraft systems that allow for certain logbook entries to be completed automatically, without any input from the pilot except for his or her approval. This would further reduce the pilot’s workload, ensure even more accurate data entry as well as reduce so-called no-fault found (NFF) errors. This last point is particularly important as NFF part replacements cost airlines millions of dollars every year. For the uninitiated, NFF refers to a situation where a part is replaced to repair an apparently failed piece of equipment. When the part is returned to the factory for quality analysis or for repair and re-certification, diagnostic tests do not detect any problem. Although a rare occurrence, engineers sometimes replace a part but are unable to update the information in the technical logbook. As such, the team at the next stop may still see an action indicated in the system and replace the part again, unnecessarily. Apart from Conduce and Ultramain, other notable vendors in this space are NVABLE and CrossConsense.

eCabin Logbook

Paper log books aren’t just the preserve of the cockpit. Crew members use cabin logbooks to record any defects they encounter in the cabin. This can include things like faulty in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems, lightbulbs that need replacing and even broken or dirty seats. These paper write-ups are handed to the pilot who then enters into the technical logbook any defects that are airworthiness related and reports them to maintenance via ACARS. As is the case with the paper technical log, issues with illegible handwriting and manual data entry are not uncommon, while the reporting phase often happens during the aircraft’s descent when pilots are busiest. eCabin logbook is faster, more accurate, more reliable and more efficient. Additionally, devices hosting eCabin logbook software can be linked to eTechlog hardware via connectivity such as Wi-Fi Direct so that defects are automatically recorded in the latter. However, several airlines have opted for standalone eCabin logbook before embracing eTechlog, which is a broader application, and this is reflective of a phased approach to connected aircraft applications more generally. The capabilities of the eCabin logbook will continue to expand in future. Sensors in the cabin will doubtless be able to self-report defects and record them automatically. Cabin crews would simply review entries for approval rather that reporting them manually. As with eTechlog, analysis of cabin defects over time may well reveal patterns that result in improved ability to predict and respond. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]