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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.

Surge in W-IFE as Portable Boxes Gain Traction

It seems that not a day goes by without Google delivering an alert to my inbox informing me about yet another report on the wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) market. Indeed, there are probably more market research companies covering the emergence of W-IFE than there are W-IFE vendors – and there are many! Unfortunately, there’s not a great deal of information out there on the rate of adoption of different types of content streaming systems (think fixed installation versus portable), how smaller airframes like turboprops are now becoming equipped in greater numbers, and of course, which companies are leading the way when it comes to market share.

I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to pen an update on how the market has progressed since this veritable delight published in December 2017. I’ll pick up where I left off in the second section of said blog and talk in a little more depth about the portable W-IFE market and how it has grown, quite quickly, throughout 2018. Portable W-IFE, for those not familiar with the term, refers to those all-in-one server-cum-WAP units that do not require an STC as they’re stored either in overhead bins or in catering trays. Notable proponents of these boxes include AirFi, Lufthansa Systems and Bluebox Aviation Systems.

At the back end of 2017, portable W-IFE could be found on 225 aircraft – a slight increase on the 198 equipped aircraft one year prior. By looking at this minimal year-on-year rise, one could be forgiven for concluding that portable boxes would not, despite massive promise, make much of a dent in the overall W-IFE installed base. However, fast-forward to June 30th, 2018 and the prospects for portable W-IFE suddenly look a lot more promising with our stats showing the number of aircraft with portable W-IFE had shot up to 383 – a 70% increase in just six months.

Of course, we need to be mindful of the fact that the inherent portability of these boxes means that they can be installed much faster than can other categories of IFE. For this reason, airlines also move boxes on and off aircraft throughout the year and the summer travel season naturally results in a marked uptick in the use of portable W-IFE. Thomas Cook Airlines, for example, operates its AirFi boxes during the summer months and keeps them stored during winter. As such, keeping track of those aircraft operating with portable W-IFE is fast becoming a painstaking task for the diligent researchers amongst us. Nevertheless, through constant dialogue with key vendors and the airline community, we’ve been able to build and maintain an extremely granular database of those carriers that have adopted, or plan to adopt, W-IFE solutions of various kinds.

As of Q2 2018, the installed base of W-IFE stood at 6,627. That’s an increase of 344 aircraft quarter-on-quarter and the biggest three-month jump we’ve ever recorded. Over the same timeframe, the number of aircraft with portable W-IFE grew by 151, which is equivalent to 44% of all net new installations during the quarter. Some of the larger deployments that have taken place in recent months include Aegean Airlines and Aurora Airlines, which, together activated AirFi boxes on more than 50 aircraft; Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, which has gone live with Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect Portable product; and Air Nostrum, which commenced a fleetwide rollout of Immfly’s plug-in portable box, SkyCube.

And there’s plenty more to come. At the end of Q2 2018, the known portable W-IFE backlog (inclusive of instances where aircraft will be upgraded to “full” fixed installation W-IFE) was 364. In truth, this backlog is most probably even higher. Our figures are an aggregation of deals that have been publicly announced, or deals that we know about but cannot yet disclose. Clearly, competition in an increasingly-crowded portable W-IFE space means secrecy abounds and vendors are rightfully keeping their cards close to their chests. Even so, we already know that Caribbean Airlines and Vistara are about to begin flying with Bluebox Wow, flynas has signed on to use Inflight Dublin’s Everhub product, and Binter Canarias has joined the long list of airlines working with AirFi.

A new class of product that could result in an even greater number of aircraft with IFE is hybrid/portable W-IFE. In 2017, several vendors announced 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 logistics of portable W-IFE that sees boxes removed from the aircraft at the end of the day for recharging and content refreshes. An added benefit is that there is no need for battery exchanges, which some airlines may consider a safety concern. 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 addition to Air Nostrum, which, as mentioned, is deploying Immfly’s SkyCube offering, new Lufthansa Systems’ customer, Air Europa, will, in Q3 2018, roll out a version of BoardConnect Portable that sees the box stored in the overhead storage compartments of aircraft and further secured with Lufthansa Technik’s Power & Safe solution, a locked safe that is connected to a power supply to prevent unwanted access. Viasat and Tigerair Australia are about to launch something similar, while Sun Country Airlines has become the launch customer for AirFi’s aircraft-powered boxes.

Interestingly, the portable W-IFE surge has shown that there is a role for unconnected W-IFE (i.e. W-IFE with no off-board Internet connectivity) to play, despite protestations to the contrary. I, and others in the industry, have pointed out for some time that W-IFE is heavily tied to the in-flight connectivity (IFC) market. Indeed, at the end of 2017, about 80% of W-IFE-equipped aircraft also offered full off-board connectivity. However, as portable W-IFE systems tend to be comprised of one, sometimes two, self-contained units and with no satellite antennas in sight, there is a distinct lack of Internet connectivity on aircraft with such solutions. That being said, several companies are working on integrating low-bandwidth connectivity into their offerings. Lufthansa Systems, for example, plans to pair a battery-powered Iridium modem with BoardConnect Portable boxes to enable in-flight messaging and live e-commerce via the soon-to-be-complete Iridium NEXT constellation.

The emergence of portable W-IFE has also opened up an entirely new segment of the market to IFE. Its common to assume that narrow-bodies and regional jets remain the main area of focus for vendors in this space. And when we think about single-aisle aircraft, we tend to imagine Boeing 737s, Airbus A320s and the CRJs and E-Jets from Bombardier and Embraer, respectively. But turboprops comprise a not-insignificant proportion of the global fleet and despite tending to fly much shorter routes, are ripe for lightweight, inexpensive and easy-to-install solutions that can, potentially, generate additional ancillary revenues. Just last month, SpiceJet became the latest Lufthansa Systems customer to go live. The BoardConnect Portable solution (branded “SpicEngage”) is now up and running on 21 Bombardier Dash 8s. Likewise, Bluebox’s Wow solution recently started active service on five Dash 8s operated by Air Inuit.

At the end of Q2 2018, a total of 26 W-IFE vendors had installed their solutions on more than one aircraft. The new HAVELSAN/Turkish Technic joint-venture became the latest to join the party when it finally activated its W-IFE system on 44 Turkish Airlines’ aircraft in June 2018. Though not a portable solution, its entrance just goes to show how fragmented the market has become. And there’s no sign of any let-up. Global Eagle, already counted as one of the 26, expects to announce the first customers for its new portable product, AirConnect Go, by the end of the year. Amphenol Phitek, lest we forget, has signed a strategic agreement with Franco-Italian aircraft manufacturer, ATR, and plans to launch its new CabinStream portable product on Gabon-based carrier, Afrijet, in the next few months. And might we expect a new name to come from nowhere and have a crack? GoMedia, which continues to gain traction in the rail and coach markets and has just announced its first US launch on Greyhound Buses, could conceivably decide to enter the fray at any moment.

As it stands, the big IFC service providers continue to lead the way when it comes to overall share of the installed base. Gogo, Panasonic Avionics and the aforementioned Global Eagle, all occupy lofty rankings mainly because they have been able to easily add their respective solutions to existing IFC deployments that utilise the same in-cabin architecture. But the portable space is dominated by three different vendors. Together, AirFi, Lufthansa Systems and Bluebox Aviation Systems account for almost 90% of all aircraft with portable W-IFE.

Valour Consultancy is the only independent market intelligence provider tracking the W-IFE market on a quarterly basis. With installed base and quarterly activity broken out by product type, service provider, airline, fitment type, aircraft type, aircraft size and geographic region, it is a must-have resource for keeping track of developments in this increasingly dynamic market. Additionally, the product draws from our highly-complementary quarterly IFC tracker database to show which airlines have installed W-IFE alongside on-board Internet. If you’d like further information or would like us to demo either of these trackers, don’t hesitate to let us know.

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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="4862|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/2018/09/streaming-1024x683-1.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]It seems that not a day goes by without Google delivering an alert to my inbox informing me about yet another report on the wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE) market. Indeed, there are probably more market research companies covering the emergence of W-IFE than there are W-IFE vendors – and there are many! Unfortunately, there’s not a great deal of information out there on the rate of adoption of different types of content streaming systems (think fixed installation versus portable), how smaller airframes like turboprops are now becoming equipped in greater numbers, and of course, which companies are leading the way when it comes to market share. I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to pen an update on how the market has progressed since this veritable delight published in December 2017. I’ll pick up where I left off in the second section of said blog and talk in a little more depth about the portable W-IFE market and how it has grown, quite quickly, throughout 2018. Portable W-IFE, for those not familiar with the term, refers to those all-in-one server-cum-WAP units that do not require an STC as they’re stored either in overhead bins or in catering trays. Notable proponents of these boxes include AirFi, Lufthansa Systems and Bluebox Aviation Systems. At the back end of 2017, portable W-IFE could be found on 225 aircraft – a slight increase on the 198 equipped aircraft one year prior. By looking at this minimal year-on-year rise, one could be forgiven for concluding that portable boxes would not, despite massive promise, make much of a dent in the overall W-IFE installed base. However, fast-forward to June 30th, 2018 and the prospects for portable W-IFE suddenly look a lot more promising with our stats showing the number of aircraft with portable W-IFE had shot up to 383 – a 70% increase in just six months. Of course, we need to be mindful of the fact that the inherent portability of these boxes means that they can be installed much faster than can other categories of IFE. For this reason, airlines also move boxes on and off aircraft throughout the year and the summer travel season naturally results in a marked uptick in the use of portable W-IFE. Thomas Cook Airlines, for example, operates its AirFi boxes during the summer months and keeps them stored during winter. As such, keeping track of those aircraft operating with portable W-IFE is fast becoming a painstaking task for the diligent researchers amongst us. Nevertheless, through constant dialogue with key vendors and the airline community, we’ve been able to build and maintain an extremely granular database of those carriers that have adopted, or plan to adopt, W-IFE solutions of various kinds. As of Q2 2018, the installed base of W-IFE stood at 6,627. That’s an increase of 344 aircraft quarter-on-quarter and the biggest three-month jump we’ve ever recorded. Over the same timeframe, the number of aircraft with portable W-IFE grew by 151, which is equivalent to 44% of all net new installations during the quarter. Some of the larger deployments that have taken place in recent months include Aegean Airlines and Aurora Airlines, which, together activated AirFi boxes on more than 50 aircraft; Virgin Australia Regional Airlines, which has gone live with Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect Portable product; and Air Nostrum, which commenced a fleetwide rollout of Immfly’s plug-in portable box, SkyCube. And there’s plenty more to come. At the end of Q2 2018, the known portable W-IFE backlog (inclusive of instances where aircraft will be upgraded to “full” fixed installation W-IFE) was 364. In truth, this backlog is most probably even higher. Our figures are an aggregation of deals that have been publicly announced, or deals that we know about but cannot yet disclose. Clearly, competition in an increasingly-crowded portable W-IFE space means secrecy abounds and vendors are rightfully keeping their cards close to their chests. Even so, we already know that Caribbean Airlines and Vistara are about to begin flying with Bluebox Wow, flynas has signed on to use Inflight Dublin’s Everhub product, and Binter Canarias has joined the long list of airlines working with AirFi. A new class of product that could result in an even greater number of aircraft with IFE is hybrid/portable W-IFE. In 2017, several vendors announced 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 logistics of portable W-IFE that sees boxes removed from the aircraft at the end of the day for recharging and content refreshes. An added benefit is that there is no need for battery exchanges, which some airlines may consider a safety concern. 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 addition to Air Nostrum, which, as mentioned, is deploying Immfly’s SkyCube offering, new Lufthansa Systems’ customer, Air Europa, will, in Q3 2018, roll out a version of BoardConnect Portable that sees the box stored in the overhead storage compartments of aircraft and further secured with Lufthansa Technik’s Power & Safe solution, a locked safe that is connected to a power supply to prevent unwanted access. Viasat and Tigerair Australia are about to launch something similar, while Sun Country Airlines has become the launch customer for AirFi's aircraft-powered boxes. Interestingly, the portable W-IFE surge has shown that there is a role for unconnected W-IFE (i.e. W-IFE with no off-board Internet connectivity) to play, despite protestations to the contrary. I, and others in the industry, have pointed out for some time that W-IFE is heavily tied to the in-flight connectivity (IFC) market. Indeed, at the end of 2017, about 80% of W-IFE-equipped aircraft also offered full off-board connectivity. However, as portable W-IFE systems tend to be comprised of one, sometimes two, self-contained units and with no satellite antennas in sight, there is a distinct lack of Internet connectivity on aircraft with such solutions. That being said, several companies are working on integrating low-bandwidth connectivity into their offerings. Lufthansa Systems, for example, plans to pair a battery-powered Iridium modem with BoardConnect Portable boxes to enable in-flight messaging and live e-commerce via the soon-to-be-complete Iridium NEXT constellation. The emergence of portable W-IFE has also opened up an entirely new segment of the market to IFE. Its common to assume that narrow-bodies and regional jets remain the main area of focus for vendors in this space. And when we think about single-aisle aircraft, we tend to imagine Boeing 737s, Airbus A320s and the CRJs and E-Jets from Bombardier and Embraer, respectively. But turboprops comprise a not-insignificant proportion of the global fleet and despite tending to fly much shorter routes, are ripe for lightweight, inexpensive and easy-to-install solutions that can, potentially, generate additional ancillary revenues. Just last month, SpiceJet became the latest Lufthansa Systems customer to go live. The BoardConnect Portable solution (branded “SpicEngage”) is now up and running on 21 Bombardier Dash 8s. Likewise, Bluebox’s Wow solution recently started active service on five Dash 8s operated by Air Inuit. At the end of Q2 2018, a total of 26 W-IFE vendors had installed their solutions on more than one aircraft. The new HAVELSAN/Turkish Technic joint-venture became the latest to join the party when it finally activated its W-IFE system on 44 Turkish Airlines’ aircraft in June 2018. Though not a portable solution, its entrance just goes to show how fragmented the market has become. And there’s no sign of any let-up. Global Eagle, already counted as one of the 26, expects to announce the first customers for its new portable product, AirConnect Go, by the end of the year. Amphenol Phitek, lest we forget, has signed a strategic agreement with Franco-Italian aircraft manufacturer, ATR, and plans to launch its new CabinStream portable product on Gabon-based carrier, Afrijet, in the next few months. And might we expect a new name to come from nowhere and have a crack? GoMedia, which continues to gain traction in the rail and coach markets and has just announced its first US launch on Greyhound Buses, could conceivably decide to enter the fray at any moment. As it stands, the big IFC service providers continue to lead the way when it comes to overall share of the installed base. Gogo, Panasonic Avionics and the aforementioned Global Eagle, all occupy lofty rankings mainly because they have been able to easily add their respective solutions to existing IFC deployments that utilise the same in-cabin architecture. But the portable space is dominated by three different vendors. Together, AirFi, Lufthansa Systems and Bluebox Aviation Systems account for almost 90% of all aircraft with portable W-IFE. Valour Consultancy is the only independent market intelligence provider tracking the W-IFE market on a quarterly basis. With installed base and quarterly activity broken out by product type, service provider, airline, fitment type, aircraft type, aircraft size and geographic region, it is a must-have resource for keeping track of developments in this increasingly dynamic market. Additionally, the product draws from our highly-complementary quarterly IFC tracker database to show which airlines have installed W-IFE alongside on-board Internet. If you’d like further information or would like us to demo either of these trackers, don’t hesitate to let us know.[/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]