High reliability antenna system that enables gate-to-gate in-flight broadband.
The funny thing about the human psyche is that, once we’ve got used to something in one area of our life, for however short a time, we expect it everywhere. And we reserve the right to be annoyed if it’s not.
Nowhere is this more evident than with personal electronic devices. We’ve got so used to using personal devices away from home as fully as we do in it, that we now view any connectivity black hole, anywhere, as poor service. That’s not something any business wants to be associated with.
Yet the airline industry – often associated with innovative ideas – has struggled to keep pace in this area. Despite a relaxation of personal electronic device usage rules by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2013, in-flight connectivity has remained doggedly behind the experience on the ground. That’s because, operating at some 32,000 feet above cell towers, aeroplanes spend much of their time away from strong land-based signals, for example when cruising over oceans.
The alternative is to use satellites to deliver internet to the plane. But conventional technology in this area has been expensive and with slower connections that can’t adequately support streaming media, now the top user demand. Unsurprisingly, users have been rejecting lower-level service in favour of seat-back entertainment.
The profit impact of this for operators is significant. With new connectivity expectations, passengers are likely to consider the availability and standard of Wi-Fi when selecting an airline, which means seat sales are at stake. On-board and after-sales potential is also compromised as seat-back entertainment systems don’t have the same flexibility to personalise content or facilitate ongoing engagement.
This is no small matter. With air passenger numbers set to double in the next 15 years, airline operators are under pressure not only to lower ticket costs while increasing services; but to do so while containing their operating costs and reducing environmental impact (especially fuel usage). They can only do this by rethinking every area of aeroplane design to maximise efficiency.