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 Andreas Fuchs, Director of Products, KID Systeme.
What are your predictions for connectivity in the cabin in 2023?
“Connectivity on aircraft is playing an increasingly important role in these times. Passengers “demand connectivity” and a unique flight experience, which for them includes constant availability of the Internet. In 2023, this expectation will increase, and more and more system providers will enter the market offering digital solutions for the aircraft cabin with multi-lane IFE solutions and permanent WiFi.
In the U.S. there are already several major airlines offering this user experience for several years, and it will surely soon become the norm across the entire world.
KID-Systeme GmbH will launch the new WiFi 6 Cabin Access Point product with double throughput at the AIX 2023. On-Board Audio- and video streaming using local content is in our hands and our goal is to provide a similar WiFi user experience here as at home or in the office via our hardware and software solutions.
Internet connection speed and throughput also depend on available satellite communications services, which are currently a bottleneck. We see that SatCom capacity is growing all the time, but it will be a while before we have permanent and stable performance here as well.”
How do you see in-flight connectivity evolving in the next five years?
“The market will shift to a very dynamic integrator model, with service providers competing with the latest and most modular software solutions. Airlines are looking to these integrator experiences to differentiate themselves with multiple networks and tailored solutions. This competitive environment will be a prerequisite to provide value to the passenger – in the end, they choose the best service!
Standards like those at home should also become possible on airplanes in the future. Wi-Fi Open Roaming will bring great comfort to Wi-Fi users. Satellite connectivity will increase. New companies will challenge the old players and some of them will survive this rather small and competitive market.”
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?
“Two important factors play the decisive role here. Local streaming of audio- and video-content and Internet connectivity. The first, an increase in passenger usage is getting better as airlines start to be creative e.g. with bundling offers and new technology like our WIFI 6 WAP, for the second there is still a lack of sufficient SatCom capacity per aircraft.
If more and more passengers use the Internet service on board while the SatCom connection remains the same at 5 or 10 Mbps per aircraft, the user experience will deteriorate. In the future, more satcom data throughput per aircraft will be needed to meet user expectations, e.g., through new Ka-Satcom or direct aircraft-to-ground communication systems.
Local in-flight content and services may need to be enhanced to attract passengers to these services instead of Internet streaming.”
The demand to stream content including on short and medium flights has proliferated.
How will airlines ensure they continue to meet this demand?
“With streaming of local content via “bring your own device” (BYOD). Very good WiFi performance is required in the cabin for high passenger density scenarios, such as in A320 or A350 aircraft with 200 and 350 PAX. With KID’s integrated and modular software platform GeniusLINK, we offer airlines and IFE providers the ability to enable the IFE system to stream content to passengers’ mobile devices.
The platform hosts passenger and crew applications simultaneously and supports frequently changed Passenger and Airline expectations on Wireless Entertainment, eCommerce and crew operation (“partner services”). GeniusLINK supports new trends and expectations by changing the hosted apps easily without impacts on hardware or hardware certification.
Considering the growing number of content providers we expect also a lot of players leaving the market unsuccessfully. So it is very important for airlines to have a flexible hard and software solution to offer continued support even in such situations – like GeniusLINK.”
The EU commission has unveiled plans for airlines to implement 5G technologies onboard for passengers.
Do you see this revolutionising onboard connectivity?
“Actually, we cannot see a bigger change in the Satellite connectivity market for passengers due to 5G. The 5G technology will better support the data exchange between the aircraft and airlines- or maintenance providers infrastructure. Data Exchange during short groundtimes of aircraft will definitely be better supported in the future. This has been a problem with the old standards.”
Any other comments or insight you would like to share around the topics of digitalisation and connectivity?
“With our revolutionary concept of a multi-purpose platform – the GeniusLINK – we offer the highest flexibility of an open software platform in the aircraft. This allows the airline to host not only applications for passengers, but also applications that contribute to crew operations.
Here, we offer for example the digital seal for life jackets – a visual indicator for the crew to ensure flight safety before the flight. Aircraft downtime is reduced, and the crew receives digital support for their safety functions.
Airline business models focus on passenger comfort and services. To meet this market demand, we will offer our comprehensive App Gallery, which provides a wide variety of apps ranging from inflight entertainment and crew operations through to applications and e-commerce. All apps within GeniusLINK are pre-tested to meet changing needs and can be easily installed without any impact on hardware and certification.
Furthermore, GeniusLINK is the central element in our innovative modular cabin system, the GeniusSERIES. As an innovative and powerful server, it connects all products including data and storage. Enjoy a comprehensive and open software and hardware infrastructure that facilitates exceptional apps and features while paving the way to the digital future.”