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What’s Going on in the World of Wireless In-Flight Entertainment?

Last month, Valour Consultancy published its long-awaited report “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment – 2017”, which covers the prospects for four types of in-flight entertainment (IFE) product: embedded IFE, wireless IFE (W-IFE), overhead IFE and portable units. In this blog, we zero in on the W-IFE market and share some insight into its present state, likely future development and how the competitive landscape is shaping up.

By the end of 2017, the installed base of W-IFE will stand at just over 6,000 aircraft. Drilling down into this top-level number reveals some interesting trends:

  • About 80% of W-IFE-equipped aircraft also offer full off-board connectivity.
  • North America still dominates the W-IFE landscape, but penetration elsewhere is growing – particularly in Western Europe, and Central and South America.
  • At the end of 2017, single-aisle aircraft will account for almost 90% of the installed base.
  • W-IFE line-fitments are a rare commodity – just 60 aircraft had systems installed at the factory in 2017.
  • Portable W-IFE continues to confound the doubters and the number of companies offering this kind of solution keeps on growing.

Internet-enabled W-IFE

In the early days of W-IFE, most installations were on aircraft already equipped with in-flight connectivity (IFC). Global Eagle and Gogo have the largest share of the current W-IFE installed base mainly because they have been able to easily add their respective solutions to existing IFC deployments that utilise the same in-cabin architecture. Combining IFC and W-IFE is almost a no-brainer for airlines as it results in little disruption and has the potential to generate additional ancillary revenues, while at the same time, reducing the strain on sometimes overburdened networks.

In 2015, however, we started to see the emergence of vendors eager to attract those operators not yet convinced by the economics of IFC offering solutions with no connectivity element. However, it has become evident that unconnected W-IFE has not established itself to the extent many were expecting. W-IFE grows mostly as an accessory to IFC and will continue to do so, especially as technology improves and the benefits of an integrated IFEC approach (greater personalisation, tailored content, operational efficiencies etc.) become more obvious.

Some market participants are positioning themselves as universal service providers capable of handling multiple platforms, connectivity links and applications throughout the cockpit and cabin. SITAONAIR and Rockwell Collins have been most vocal about their abilities in this regard; both eager to capitalise on the need for nose-to-tail connectivity. As this theme gathers momentum, W-IFE and IFC will increasingly be procured alongside one another and in addition to other products such as flight tracking and ACARS messaging. We, therefore, expect the number of aircraft with Internet-enabled W-IFE to surpass 13,000 by 2026 – up from approximately 4,500 in 2016.

Portable W-IFE Vendors

That’s not to say there’s no role for unconnected W-IFE to play. There absolutely is, and proponents of portable W-IFE are arguably best-placed to take advantage of this.

These solutions are attractive for a number of reasons:

  • Low up-front costs.
  • No STCs, thus minimising aircraft downtime and installation costs.
  • Low weight/small footprint.
  • Older units can be swapped for newer variants as technology evolves.
  • A low-risk way to trial W-IFE.

Consequently, the market for portable W-IFE has quickly become very crowded. AirFi, the company that pioneered the concept of portable W-IFE back in January 2015, has now been joined by the following vendors:

  • Lufthansa Systems
  • LSK Sky Chefs (Media inMotion)
  • Bluebox Aviation Systems
  • Inflight Dublin
  • Amphenol Phitek
  • Flow IFE
  • Vision Systems
  • Interactive Mobility (Flymingo)
  • ViaSat
  • Immfly

Others stand ready to enter the fray. In March 2017, Intertrust Technologies acquired Kiora Media and with it, a content distribution platform that can be used for IFE. Likewise, Czech-based Passengera has developed an infotainment platform for the bus, rail, vehicle and aviation markets. SkyFlix and Paradigm Tech, meanwhile, have opted to concentrate on business aviation thus far, but could, conceivably, look to address the commercial aviation market in future with their SkyFlix 2 and AdonisOne systems, respectively.

Hybrid Portable W-IFE

Faced with increased competition, incumbent vendors have sought to protect their position and over the last few months, several have unveiled portable W-IFE boxes that can be connected to the aircraft power supply. This type of solution is likely to prove popular among operators not keen on the logistical side of portable W-IFE that involves units being removed from the aircraft at the end of the day for recharging and content refreshment.

New Lufthansa Systems’ customer, Air Europa, is deploying a version of BoardConnect Portable that will see boxes stored in the overhead storage compartments of aircraft and further secured with Lufthansa Technik’s Power & Safe solution, a locked safe which is connected to a power supply to prevent unwanted access. Immfly and Air Nostrum have also launched a powered solution whereby boxes can be charged and powered on board the aircraft, while AirFi has announced that it is offering something similar. We speculate that the same is true of ViaSat and Tigerair Australia, although precise details are not currently available.

Such solutions combine the benefits of both a portable and an installed IFE solution and could prove popular in the low-cost sector and on short- and medium-haul routes in particular.

Future of W-IFE

Service provider backlog indicates that airlines under contract represent at least three years’ worth of W-IFE installations to come. Furthermore, some big airlines have recently committed to W-IFE.

Air France’s new low-cost subsidiary, Joon, is fitting Display Interactive’s UGO technology on its fleet and the French company along with Chinese partner, Donica, are close to revealing the name of another major client. Immfly is celebrating the recent launch of its “Air Time” service as part of a pilot on five easyJet aircraft, Panasonic Avionics’ eXW streaming system is being deployed on Hawaiian Airlines’ new A321neos and as already mentioned, Lufthansa Systems has bagged Air Europa.

Bluebox Aviation Systems, AirFi and Inflight Dublin continue to pick up new customers for their portable propositions, too. Bluebox has won the business of Solaseed Air and Air Inuit in the last few months and expects to reveal the names of additional customers imminently. AirFi has added Samoa Airways to a customer list that has grown rapidly in just three years and now consists of more than 30 airlines. Africa, which is almost entirely untapped as far as W-IFE goes, appears to be a major focus for Inflight Dublin. The Irish content service provider has signed up Tunisair and Kenya Airways as customers for the portable variant of its Everhub offer.

All things told, there is certainly every reason to believe our forecast of 15,000 W-IFE equipped aircraft by 2026 will be fulfilled. Much less certain is whether there will still be 30 plus vendors in the market by this point in time. The likes of Storebox Inflight, Ocleen TV, BAE Systems and PaxLife have all entered and exited the W-IFE market in a relatively short space of time and it would be foolish to assume that others will not follow suit.

Wireless In-Flight Entertainment Market Forecast

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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="4956|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/2017/12/Cellphone-Airplane-Mode-PHONEMODE0316-1024x640-1.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] Last month, Valour Consultancy published its long-awaited report “The Future of In-Flight Entertainment – 2017”, which covers the prospects for four types of in-flight entertainment (IFE) product: embedded IFE, wireless IFE (W-IFE), overhead IFE and portable units. In this blog, we zero in on the W-IFE market and share some insight into its present state, likely future development and how the competitive landscape is shaping up. By the end of 2017, the installed base of W-IFE will stand at just over 6,000 aircraft. Drilling down into this top-level number reveals some interesting trends:
  • About 80% of W-IFE-equipped aircraft also offer full off-board connectivity.
  • North America still dominates the W-IFE landscape, but penetration elsewhere is growing – particularly in Western Europe, and Central and South America.
  • At the end of 2017, single-aisle aircraft will account for almost 90% of the installed base.
  • W-IFE line-fitments are a rare commodity – just 60 aircraft had systems installed at the factory in 2017.
  • Portable W-IFE continues to confound the doubters and the number of companies offering this kind of solution keeps on growing.
Internet-enabled W-IFE In the early days of W-IFE, most installations were on aircraft already equipped with in-flight connectivity (IFC). Global Eagle and Gogo have the largest share of the current W-IFE installed base mainly because they have been able to easily add their respective solutions to existing IFC deployments that utilise the same in-cabin architecture. Combining IFC and W-IFE is almost a no-brainer for airlines as it results in little disruption and has the potential to generate additional ancillary revenues, while at the same time, reducing the strain on sometimes overburdened networks. In 2015, however, we started to see the emergence of vendors eager to attract those operators not yet convinced by the economics of IFC offering solutions with no connectivity element. However, it has become evident that unconnected W-IFE has not established itself to the extent many were expecting. W-IFE grows mostly as an accessory to IFC and will continue to do so, especially as technology improves and the benefits of an integrated IFEC approach (greater personalisation, tailored content, operational efficiencies etc.) become more obvious. Some market participants are positioning themselves as universal service providers capable of handling multiple platforms, connectivity links and applications throughout the cockpit and cabin. SITAONAIR and Rockwell Collins have been most vocal about their abilities in this regard; both eager to capitalise on the need for nose-to-tail connectivity. As this theme gathers momentum, W-IFE and IFC will increasingly be procured alongside one another and in addition to other products such as flight tracking and ACARS messaging. We, therefore, expect the number of aircraft with Internet-enabled W-IFE to surpass 13,000 by 2026 – up from approximately 4,500 in 2016. Portable W-IFE Vendors That’s not to say there’s no role for unconnected W-IFE to play. There absolutely is, and proponents of portable W-IFE are arguably best-placed to take advantage of this. These solutions are attractive for a number of reasons:
  • Low up-front costs.
  • No STCs, thus minimising aircraft downtime and installation costs.
  • Low weight/small footprint.
  • Older units can be swapped for newer variants as technology evolves.
  • A low-risk way to trial W-IFE.
Consequently, the market for portable W-IFE has quickly become very crowded. AirFi, the company that pioneered the concept of portable W-IFE back in January 2015, has now been joined by the following vendors:
  • Lufthansa Systems
  • LSK Sky Chefs (Media inMotion)
  • Bluebox Aviation Systems
  • Inflight Dublin
  • Amphenol Phitek
  • Flow IFE
  • Vision Systems
  • Interactive Mobility (Flymingo)
  • ViaSat
  • Immfly
Others stand ready to enter the fray. In March 2017, Intertrust Technologies acquired Kiora Media and with it, a content distribution platform that can be used for IFE. Likewise, Czech-based Passengera has developed an infotainment platform for the bus, rail, vehicle and aviation markets. SkyFlix and Paradigm Tech, meanwhile, have opted to concentrate on business aviation thus far, but could, conceivably, look to address the commercial aviation market in future with their SkyFlix 2 and AdonisOne systems, respectively. Hybrid Portable W-IFE Faced with increased competition, incumbent vendors have sought to protect their position and over the last few months, several have unveiled portable W-IFE boxes that can be connected to the aircraft power supply. This type of solution is likely to prove popular among operators not keen on the logistical side of portable W-IFE that involves units being removed from the aircraft at the end of the day for recharging and content refreshment. New Lufthansa Systems’ customer, Air Europa, is deploying a version of BoardConnect Portable that will see boxes stored in the overhead storage compartments of aircraft and further secured with Lufthansa Technik’s Power & Safe solution, a locked safe which is connected to a power supply to prevent unwanted access. Immfly and Air Nostrum have also launched a powered solution whereby boxes can be charged and powered on board the aircraft, while AirFi has announced that it is offering something similar. We speculate that the same is true of ViaSat and Tigerair Australia, although precise details are not currently available. Such solutions combine the benefits of both a portable and an installed IFE solution and could prove popular in the low-cost sector and on short- and medium-haul routes in particular. Future of W-IFE Service provider backlog indicates that airlines under contract represent at least three years’ worth of W-IFE installations to come. Furthermore, some big airlines have recently committed to W-IFE. Air France’s new low-cost subsidiary, Joon, is fitting Display Interactive’s UGO technology on its fleet and the French company along with Chinese partner, Donica, are close to revealing the name of another major client. Immfly is celebrating the recent launch of its “Air Time” service as part of a pilot on five easyJet aircraft, Panasonic Avionics’ eXW streaming system is being deployed on Hawaiian Airlines’ new A321neos and as already mentioned, Lufthansa Systems has bagged Air Europa. Bluebox Aviation Systems, AirFi and Inflight Dublin continue to pick up new customers for their portable propositions, too. Bluebox has won the business of Solaseed Air and Air Inuit in the last few months and expects to reveal the names of additional customers imminently. AirFi has added Samoa Airways to a customer list that has grown rapidly in just three years and now consists of more than 30 airlines. Africa, which is almost entirely untapped as far as W-IFE goes, appears to be a major focus for Inflight Dublin. The Irish content service provider has signed up Tunisair and Kenya Airways as customers for the portable variant of its Everhub offer. All things told, there is certainly every reason to believe our forecast of 15,000 W-IFE equipped aircraft by 2026 will be fulfilled. Much less certain is whether there will still be 30 plus vendors in the market by this point in time. The likes of Storebox Inflight, Ocleen TV, BAE Systems and PaxLife have all entered and exited the W-IFE market in a relatively short space of time and it would be foolish to assume that others will not follow suit. Wireless In-Flight Entertainment Market Forecast [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Latin American Carriers Begin to Embrace In-Flight Connectivity

Having lived and worked in Peru for a couple of years, I try to take a keen interest in all things Latin America. This is especially so when it comes to researching the market for in-flight Internet and mobile phone services and breaking down our stats on connected aircraft by geography as I frequently do. As we remarked in our December 2014 blog post, adoption of in-flight connectivity in Latin America lags some way behind other regions. Back then, TAM Airlines (now known as LATAM Airlines Brasil following the merger of TAM and LAN) was the only carrier in the region to have deployed any type of IFC. The SITAONAIR-powered L-band cellular system installed on 31 Airbus A320 aircraft was, however, de-activated last year. Since that blog was written, activity in this part of the world has been hotting up with a couple of operators having now played their cards.

First up was Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes (GOL). The Brazilian low-cost-carrier announced in June 2015 that it would be fitting Gogo’s 2Ku connectivity on all of its aircraft. The first – a Boeing 737-800 – was installed at the beginning of this month. The remaining 135 in the fleet (a mixture of 737-700s, and 737-800s) are due to be kitted out over the next year or so. And just this week, it has been announced that Avianca Brasil is to follow GOL’s lead and deploy Ku-band connectivity from Gogo rival, Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE).

Again, this deal is for fleet-wide equipage. The only difference being that Avianca Brasil operates fewer aircraft (Planespotters.net puts the number at 46 currently). The carrier does have a significant number of planes on order though, including 62 from the Airbus A320neo family. In its second quarter earnings call earlier this week, GEE confirmed it is in discussions to secure a contract for these new aircraft and that there also exists an opportunity to win the business of those operated by the larger Avianca entity headquartered in Colombia. Installations on Avianca Brasil’s in-service aircraft are slated to begin in the autumn.

So what of the other airlines in the region? LATAM has said that it has no plans to offer in-flight Internet in the near-term. At least not on its short-haul fleet, which has been retrofitted with the “RAVE Wireless” content streaming system from Zodiac Inflight Innovations (Zii). Whether that view changes in light of recent announcements remains to be seen. Aerolineas Argentinas and Boliviana De Aviacion have teamed up with Panasonic Avionics to install the eXW wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) solution on select aircraft and may opt to add Internet capabilities at a later date. Other large carriers in Latin America, and I’m thinking of Copa Airlines and Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras, in particular, have yet to reveal any sort of connectivity strategy, although some of the smaller ones have. Air Caraibes, for example, is set to install both W-IFE (from Display Interactive) and GX Aviation Ka-band connectivity from Thales on six new A350s currently on order.

Adopting IFC can be the difference between attracting an additional paying passenger and not. According to a recent survey carried out by Honeywell, almost three-quarters of passengers say they are ready to switch carriers to have access to a faster, more reliable Internet connection while airborne. Now that a couple of key players have made their moves, the proverbial dominoes can be expected to fall. Indeed, the building blocks are moving into place with satellite capacity in the region being continually expanded. According to GEE, EMC’s existing satellite contracts over South America were instrumental in securing the business of Avianca Brasil. And further high-capacity coverage is being added all the time: Intelsat 29e – the first of seven Intelsat EpicNG birds – launched in January and SES-10 is due to blast-off later in the year.

By 2025, Valour Consultancy expects there to be 846 aircraft in Central and South America with IFC. This is equivalent to a penetration rate of about 38 per cent at that point in time. Our new report, “The Future of In-Flight Connectivity” delves deeply into the IFC market, providing forecasts for connected aircraft by type of connectivity (Wi-Fi, cellular and a combination of the two), fitment type (retrofit and line-fit), aircraft type (narrow-body, wide-body, regional jet) and geographic region (Asia-Pacific, China, Western Europe, Central & Eastern Europe, Africa, Middle East, North America, Central & South America). Aeromexico, which is installing different technologies from Panasonic Avionics and Gogo, contributes to North America’s installed base as far as Valour Consultancy’s analysis is concerned.

In-Flight Connectivity in Latin America

-
Having lived and worked in Peru for a couple of years, I try to take a keen interest in all things Latin America. This is especially so when it comes to researching the market for in-flight Internet and mobile phone services and breaking down our stats on connected aircraft by geography as I frequently do. As we remarked in our December 2014 blog post, adoption of in-flight connectivity in Latin America lags some way behind other regions. Back then, TAM Airlines (now known as LATAM Airlines Brasil following the merger of TAM and LAN) was the only carrier in the region to have deployed any type of IFC. The SITAONAIR-powered L-band cellular system installed on 31 Airbus A320 aircraft was, however, de-activated last year. Since that blog was written, activity in this part of the world has been hotting up with a couple of operators having now played their cards. First up was Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes (GOL). The Brazilian low-cost-carrier announced in June 2015 that it would be fitting Gogo’s 2Ku connectivity on all of its aircraft. The first – a Boeing 737-800 – was installed at the beginning of this month. The remaining 135 in the fleet (a mixture of 737-700s, and 737-800s) are due to be kitted out over the next year or so. And just this week, it has been announced that Avianca Brasil is to follow GOL’s lead and deploy Ku-band connectivity from Gogo rival, Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE). Again, this deal is for fleet-wide equipage. The only difference being that Avianca Brasil operates fewer aircraft (Planespotters.net puts the number at 46 currently). The carrier does have a significant number of planes on order though, including 62 from the Airbus A320neo family. In its second quarter earnings call earlier this week, GEE confirmed it is in discussions to secure a contract for these new aircraft and that there also exists an opportunity to win the business of those operated by the larger Avianca entity headquartered in Colombia. Installations on Avianca Brasil’s in-service aircraft are slated to begin in the autumn. So what of the other airlines in the region? LATAM has said that it has no plans to offer in-flight Internet in the near-term. At least not on its short-haul fleet, which has been retrofitted with the “RAVE Wireless” content streaming system from Zodiac Inflight Innovations (Zii). Whether that view changes in light of recent announcements remains to be seen. Aerolineas Argentinas and Boliviana De Aviacion have teamed up with Panasonic Avionics to install the eXW wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) solution on select aircraft and may opt to add Internet capabilities at a later date. Other large carriers in Latin America, and I’m thinking of Copa Airlines and Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras, in particular, have yet to reveal any sort of connectivity strategy, although some of the smaller ones have. Air Caraibes, for example, is set to install both W-IFE (from Display Interactive) and GX Aviation Ka-band connectivity from Thales on six new A350s currently on order. Adopting IFC can be the difference between attracting an additional paying passenger and not. According to a recent survey carried out by Honeywell, almost three-quarters of passengers say they are ready to switch carriers to have access to a faster, more reliable Internet connection while airborne. Now that a couple of key players have made their moves, the proverbial dominoes can be expected to fall. Indeed, the building blocks are moving into place with satellite capacity in the region being continually expanded. According to GEE, EMC’s existing satellite contracts over South America were instrumental in securing the business of Avianca Brasil. And further high-capacity coverage is being added all the time: Intelsat 29e – the first of seven Intelsat EpicNG birds – launched in January and SES-10 is due to blast-off later in the year. By 2025, Valour Consultancy expects there to be 846 aircraft in Central and South America with IFC. This is equivalent to a penetration rate of about 38 per cent at that point in time. Our new report, “The Future of In-Flight Connectivity” delves deeply into the IFC market, providing forecasts for connected aircraft by type of connectivity (Wi-Fi, cellular and a combination of the two), fitment type (retrofit and line-fit), aircraft type (narrow-body, wide-body, regional jet) and geographic region (Asia-Pacific, China, Western Europe, Central & Eastern Europe, Africa, Middle East, North America, Central & South America). Aeromexico, which is installing different technologies from Panasonic Avionics and Gogo, contributes to North America’s installed base as far as Valour Consultancy’s analysis is concerned. In-Flight Connectivity in Latin America