June 12, 2018

Satellite Technology Innovations Fuel the Skies

Global Connected AircraftGlobal Connected Aircraft Summit 2018 was rich with conversations across the aero ecosystem — and much of the discussion revolved around justifying the cost of connectivity by reducing overall cost and driving passenger adoption to consume available bandwidth.

Key highlights include:

    • The realization that there is a need for both passenger education on connectivity in the sky versus at home as well as for airlines to understand customer usage patterns and their unwillingness to pay for connectivity.
    • Spencer Wang, VP Finance, Netflix, said he doesn’t necessarily believe that customer behavior in the air is fundamentally different than on the ground.
    • Over the past 18 months, Netflix has worked with many more international vs. US-centric partners and reported an increase of 4x streaming users, and 5x the number of hours over the past 12 months.
    • Patrick Brannelly, Divisional VP Customer Experience, Emirates, stated only 5% of their passengers pay for Wi-Fi and utilize 20% of data, leaving 80% available for free. In a 3-hour flight, they typically see 10% of passengers connecting, but for a 15-hour flight, that increases to 40% of passengers. Emirates has also observed that 92% of connected devices are smartphones.
    • With so much focus on the passenger, Honeywell highlighted a different perspective from the airline executives that their primary concern with the connected aircraft is maintenance, followed by flight operations, passenger experience, and fuel savings.
    • Air China said they have yet to adopt in-flight connectivity (IFC) due to the high cost of entry and inability to prove a positive return on investment (ROI).
    • Cybersecurity continues to be a major concern, particularly at the business jet level.
    • NSR projected that in the next 10 years, 3x more satellites will be available resulting in 10x increase in capacity with ~60% coming from non-GEO HTS constellations.

Steve Moses, Sr. Director Vertical Market Solutions, iDirect, presented on technology considerations for Achieving High Performance Aero Connectivity Today and in the Future on the Hardware & Technology track. With many aero connectivity choices coming online, satellite hardware providers must keep the following considerations in mind when developing solutions for aero:

  • Numerous connectivity choices: GEO/MEO/LEO and air-to-ground are all aero connectivity options, some of which are available today and some that will be available tomorrow. Each choice or multi-orbit combination has its own merits and tradeoffs.
  • VSAT solution architecture: The ARINC 791 standard defines Ku- and Ka-band satellite data airborne terminal equipment and there are many options to integrate the technologies.
  • Terminal technology: Future modems and antennas will need to support multi-waveforms and multi-orbits.
  • System capabilities: Commercial aircraft will need to seamlessly maintain connectivity while roaming between orbital planes and ATG.

How can we as in industry ensure success? Brannelly summed it up perfectly: working together will lead to better ideation and ultimately a better future for everyone.