The inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) market is on a “growth trajectory” with airlines signing new contracts to be able to provide the best-in-class passenger experience, according to Euroconsult.
The international consulting and market intelligence firm recently released the tenth edition of their report that analyses in-flight connectivity in commercial and business aviation.
“Prospects of In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity” concludes that airlines are invested in “riding on the IFEC wave to offer either free messaging or freemium services, if not free-for-all”.
However, Euroconsult found that many other additional external factors need to align before passengers can expect a “home-like” internet experience on an aeroplane for no extra cost.
The equipment and capacity costs need to reduce to be able to encourage mass utilisation, the report’s authors said.
They told FINN: “The new satellite technologies and massive capacity supply through GEO and NGSO satellites are expected to significantly decrease the capacity cost.
“The development of the new low-profile, lightweight antenna systems will bring the indirect costs down, but the commercial success of such systems is yet to be confirmed.
“Recently, NGSO constellation operators such as OneWeb and Starlink have publicly expressed their willingness to serve the IFC market.
“Even though the direction taken by the industry is yet unclear, some of the service providers are exploring possibilities to offer a multi-orbit solution for the future.”
This will involve complications on the equipment side where the antenna system must be able to scan multiple satellites at the same time and manage seamless beam switching frequently while ensuring the minimum power consumption and form factor with efficient heat dissipation.
Euroconsult estimates that more than a dozen antenna manufacturers are heavily invested in developing such systems. ThinKom has managed to successfully test the multi-orbit capabilities of its existing antenna solution. Others have been testing multi-orbit and multi-frequency solutions that will provide airlines with the required freedom to choose the IFC solution and the provider.
“Active involvement of aircraft OEMs such as Airbus and Boeing for facilitating standardisation in the IFEC industry is instrumental and promises the possibility of IFC as a standard service,” they concluded.
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