The Cloud in the clouds
On a recent business trip I was on a UK domestic flight and read an interesting article on WiFi and the airline industry in a newspaper (remember them??). It seems that the UK and Europe are a very long way behind our friends in the US but the gap is closing. Infrastructure costs to build a network for use over land & sea are in the region of $1bn so theres not exactly a lot of choice for airlines when it comes to choosing a WiFi platform partner.
Despite the provision of apps and an increase in the roll out of WiFi on fleets across the globe, the most common passenger complaint is still about speed. In its current state its simply not fast enough to meet passenger needs as their experience of broadband/4G services on the ground means the expectation of a 'decent' connection is difficult to achieve for the airlines & providers. Massive investment to deliver faster speeds in the sky is quickly becoming a priority for airlines. Getting signals from the aircraft, no matter where it is geographically, to the internet is an expensive business which requires lots of clever technology innovation from satellites to antennas.
Fortunately there are pioneers willing to invest in the provision of the Ku band spectrum and the networks to support internet connectivity up in the sky. The market is maturing quickly as technology catches up with both physical devices and software applications are refined to start bridging the gap between the needs of passenger and the airlines adding value. Delivering content and services to customer's devices whilst on the move help provide a revenue stream for airlines s well as attracting a loyal customer base. Where services are provided for free there is a marked increase the take up of WiFi than when its a chargeable service.
The removal of seat based flight entertainment systems and providing streamed content to passengers PED's would significantly cut costs* and increasingly allow airlines to develop a more personal relationship with passengers.
I have mixed feelings on being connected everywhere all of the time. As a business owner its fantastic that I can be responsive to my customers no matter where I am. However, as a human being I like engaging with the real world appreciating cloud structures at 30,000ft and reading a printed newspaper....
What benefit does being connected on an aircraft bring to your business?
*The seatback Inflight Entertainment Systems adds weight to an aircraft which means more fuel burn. Potential savings could run into hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel savings alone because of the reduced weight and the reduction of maintenance of the systems