The Year in In-flight Connectivity 2012

With 6 weeks still left in 2012, it has already been a year to remember for in-flight connectivity.

11/23/2012


With 6 weeks still left in 2012, it has already been a year to remember for in-flight connectivity. Capacity has been expanded, global reach extended, companies have been acquired and, the most important for passengers, the number of aircraft offering Wi-Fi and cellular services has increased.

Although some questions still remain over how profitable it will be (particularly in the case of Wi-Fi), Golden Eagle’s recent acquisition of Row 44 and an 86% stake in AIA for the not inconsiderable sum of $430 million, and Zodiac Aerospace’s acquisition of The IMS Company for an, as yet, undisclosed amount,  make a bold statement about each company’s belief that in-flight entertainment and connectivity will be financially rewarding in years to come.

Despite that question hanging over the heads of those in the industry, 2012 has been another busy year, with announcements of new connectivity installations or commitments seemingly every week, if not every day.

From a position just a couple of years ago where connectivity-enabled airlines could be counted on a handful of hands, we’re gradually approaching a point where that method is reserved for counting airlines who don’t offer connectivity or haven’t announced plans to implement it.

Although increasing numbers of airlines have been outfitting their aircraft with in-flight connectivity, service and satellite providers haven’t been resting on their laurels. 2012 has been a year of much progress.

Gogo, mindful of the need to enhance its air-to-ground offering, recently went live with its ATG-4 technology. Offering peak speeds of 9.8Mbps – more than three times the previous maximum – the upgrade should appease passengers for a little longer. Inmarsat has also announced imminent upgrades to its SwiftBroadband service, with the number of channels available to aircraft doubling from two to four, and the bandwidth capacity per channel also improving from 432kbps to 700kbps-plus early next year.

In the Ku-band space, Panasonic Avionics has signed a flurry of deals with satellite operators, including Intelsat, AsiaSat and RuSat. Not content with moving towards offering a global service, Panasonic Avionics also acquired a majority stake in cellular communications specialist Aeromobile in March, allowing the company to provide an in-flight Wi-Fi and cellular service.

Finally, although the launch of Viasat’s ‘Exede’ Ka-band service, in conjunction with LiveTV, has been delayed until early 2013, additional satellite partners including Eutelsat and Yahsat, will allow the service to be offered beyond North American shores. JetBlue is also promising to offer free ‘basic’ Wi-Fi to customers until at least 30 aircraft have had the service installed – a move which is sure to please passengers.

Other changes have been afoot. Aeromobile announced that Thai Airways International took delivery of the first aircraft, a Boeing 777-300ER, to have its service line-fitted in Boeing’s Seattle plant in November. With Aeromobile becoming a full Boeing catalogue entry in 2013, line-fitments for the service are expected to increase rapidly. In addition, 2012 saw Panasonic Avionics sign deals with Airbus to line-fit its Global Communications Suite on A330 and A380 aircraft.

With other line-fit deals already in place before 2012, there is now a definite acceptance of connectivity from the two major airframe providers, with other aircraft such as Boeing’s 747-8 and 777s expected to offer line-fit options through 2013.

There might still be a long way to go for in-flight connectivity, as attach rates remain low (both in terms of connected aircraft and passengers), there are still questions including how profitable it will be, but I expect that connectivity in the air will follow the barnstorming course of connectivity on the ground.

The business of commercial aviation is changing more rapidly now than at any time during its history, with much of that change driven by modern technology. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, it’s not just business passengers who feel the need to be connected. Text messaging, emailing and social networking have become part of the fabric of life, and airlines will have to adapt quickly to passengers’ demands.

I, for one, look forward to a future where I can be filled with child-like enthusiasm by the wonder of being able, on the majority of flights that I take, to instantly share a picture of the view from 36,000ft with the wider world below.

By Heath Lockett, Aerospace Market Analyst, IHS Inc.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
The true cost of lubrication: Three keys to consider when evaluating oils; Plant Engineering Lubrication Guide; 11 ways to protect bearing assets; Is lubrication part of your KPIs?
Contract maintenance: 5 ways to keep things humming while keeping an eye on costs; Pneumatic systems; Energy monitoring; The sixth 'S' is safety
Transport your data: Supply chain information critical to operational excellence; High-voltage faults; Portable cooling; Safety automation isn't automatic
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Maintaining low data center PUE; Using eco mode in UPS systems; Commissioning electrical and power systems; Exploring dc power distribution alternatives
Synchronizing industrial Ethernet networks; Selecting protocol conversion gateways; Integrating HMIs with PLCs and PACs
Why manufacturers need to see energy in a different light: Current approaches to energy management yield quick savings, but leave plant managers searching for ways of improving on those early gains.

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.