Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre . . . ETPS Rd . . . Farnborough . . . GU14 6FD . . . July 19th
The Inflight Connectivity Context
Millennials & Generation Z
The world’s networks of commercial airline routes – carrying increasing numbers of passengers, a constantly growing proportion of which are ‘Millennials’ and ‘Generation Z’ – are evolving. No longer will they be only a mode of transportation between domestic or international physical/geographical hubs, but also social networks in the sky – connecting the passenger (carrying two or even three wireless devices) to the home, to the office, to the circle of friends, to the YouTube ecosphere, etc. – and comprising aircraft that will increasingly become hubs in the communications sense of the word, using the technologies of fixed (FSS: Ku-band, Ka-band) and mobile (MSS: L-band) satellite systems and air-to-ground (ATG) networks. Whilst flight arrivals may always be subject to delays, widespread inflight connectivity (IFC) has most definitely arrived, or is at least undercarriage down, on final approach.
Two to Three Devices per Passenger
Demand for delivery of content to multiple devices per passenger exists the world over and most passengers are willing to pay for it. Use of personal devices – to stream video, access apps, browse the web, email, play games, video conference, and engage in social media – will progressively and completely replace long- and medium-haul on-board, server-based, inflight entertainment systems and introduce a common passenger experience for passengers of short-haul/low cost carriers.
What the Analysts are Saying
According to Euroconsult (Prospects for In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity, May 2017), over 17,000 commercial aircraft will offer broadband IFC to passengers by 2021, and NSR’s Aeronautical Satcom Markets report (5th edition, May 2017) forecasts IFC to be installed on 1 out of 3 commercial passenger aircraft by the end of 2019, and 2 out of every 3 by the end of 2026. Specifically, according to the NSR report, over 50 per cent of the addressable commercial passenger aircraft market will have IFC served by FSS and/or High Throughput Satellites by 2021.
Additions to the numbers of, and further improvements in the capabilities of, HTS operating in the Ku- and Ka-bands, according to Euroconsult, will result in the amount of bandwidth capacity dedicated to IFC reaching 21Gbps by the end of 2018, and increasing to almost 300Gbps by the close of 2026.
Indeed, some of the industry’s leading IFC solutions providers have started to deploy networks offering up to hundreds of Gbps.
Such developments, as well as others in, for example, terminal antenna technologies, will contribute to enabling commercial airlines – as their flights increase in number and their networks of routes expand to support growth in passenger demand – to meet the requirements of their customer base for a connectivity experience to at least match that (in performance and maybe of price) of their Wi-Fi or 4G experience on the ground; the passenger expectation of IFC will include the ability to video stream, not just update Facebook status and post a few Tweets.
Customer Connectivity Experience – a Choice Criteria
Airlines, driven by customers’ increasingly making their choice of commercial carrier based on connectivity experience, will be forced to accelerate the rate at which they install IFC equipment to their fleets and they will themselves experience a market featuring an increasing number of solutions providers, and also find themselves having to make business model choices that successfully engage the passenger/IFC customer based on pricing strategies ranging from free, to freemium, to hourly premium.
IFC service-provider revenue growth through to 2026 is forecast, by Euroconsult, at 21 per cent (CAGR), and NSR forecasts that the installed IFC base will generate revenues of over US$32 billion over the 2017-2026 period.