The AIX team sat down with aerospace thought-leaders, market disruptors and established companies to discuss how Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity (IFEC) can keep up with changing passenger expectations.
The team spoke with Reza Rasoulian, vice president, Hughes.
What are your predictions for connectivity in the cabin in 2023?
“That demand for data will continue to skyrocket! Passengers today fully expect a connected onboard experience as if they’re at home. Not only do they want to stream movies and TV shows, they want to shop, post selfies to Instagram and work using VPNs and video-conferencing.
With new very high throughput geostationary satellites, like the Hughes JUPITER™ 3, as well as Low Earth Orbit satellite constellations coming online later this year, the supply of inflight connectivity will finally start to catch up to demand, and passengers will start to make airline decisions based upon amenities such as free onboard Wi-Fi.”
How do you see in-flight connectivity evolving in the next five years?
“Over the next five years, we’ll see more capacity and capability become available for inflight connectivity. What was once a “nice-to-have” perk of travel will evolve to be a “must-have” commodity that passengers expect to be available at all times and everywhere – whether over the Atlantic or in a busy airport hub.”
Some estimations have put the “take-rate” for on-board Wi-Fi at just 6%, with some lamenting the poor connection and inability to stream content.
How do you see the role of WiFi changing in the cabin going forward?
“It wasn’t long ago that we had to leap through hoops (sim cards, anyone?) to access a mobile network in another country. In the same way that we expect our smartphones to work in any geography today, we’ll soon expect them to work at any altitude, anywhere in the world.
Luckily, the technology has arrived to make always available connectivity possible – combining the global coverage of the new Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellations – like Hughes Managed LEO with OneWeb service – with the capacity density of high-throughput geostationary satellites like the Hughes JUPITER™ 3.
Bringing multiple transports – or orbits – together into a seamless, blended solution will unlock all the potential of every available connection to deliver on the promise of always on, always available inflight connectivity.”
The demand to stream content including on short and medium flights has proliferated.
How will airlines ensure they continue to meet this demand?
“To continue to meet the demand for video streaming on every flight – long, medium and even short – airlines will need to make inflight Wi-Fi robust, resilient and free to passengers. This can be achieved best with a combination of both GEO and LEO satellite connectivity, along with intelligent, enabling technologies, integrated into a seamless connected solution.
The LEO capacity will meet the need for connectivity over oceans and polar regions while supporting low-latency applications (like VPNs) while the GEO capacity will ensure resiliency as well as the capacity density to meet the demand for bandwidth-hungry video streaming, even during busy air traffic times.
Airlines should be looking beyond single transport solutions to multi-transport implementations that can meet demand dynamically and reliably.”
The EU commission has unveiled plans for airlines to implement 5G technologies onboard for passengers.
Do you see this revolutionising onboard connectivity?
“I don’t see 5G onboard airlines revolutionizing the connected experience because, ultimately, it’s the backhaul connection by satellite (or air-to-ground) that determines the availability of bandwidth to meet passenger demand.
Any other comments or insight you would like to share around the topics of digitalisation and connectivity?
“An elevated connectivity experience in flight will enable new and innovative applications that will make air travel even more enjoyable. Real time weather information and telemetry for pilots could make for smoother or more efficient flights.
Efficient telemetry for proactive maintenance is possible, with passengers being able to connect seamlessly to latency sensitive applications like VPNs or even gaming applications!”