Rather than utilise existing options to introduce inflight connectivity systems that it deemed too costly, Brazilian carrier Gol last year opted to develop its own wireless inflight entertainment (IFE) solution that debuted in September as “Gol No Ar” (Gol on Air).
The product is now installed on 48 of the carrier’s aircraft, up from 35 Boeing Next Generation 737s at the end of 2011. Previously, the carrier has stated it aims to have 85 aircraft equipped by year-end. Gol operates 43 Boeing 737-700s and 80 of the -800 variant.
Content on Gol’s free streaming platform includes sports, music, newspaper and magazine articles, television programmes and games. Passengers have access to the content through notebooks, tablets and smart phones, and the carrier refreshes the content on landing at nine major Brazilian airports.
Gol opted to create its own solution over a 14-month period after the carrier concluded “in-flight Internet access options in Brazil are very expensive, both in terms of installation and for passenger usage costs”, the carrier explains. “For these reasons, we chose an Internet solution with local cached content. We searched for a solution that allows us to use main Brazilian content providers — TV broadcast channels and radio stations”.
For those reasons, says Gol, “we choose an Intranet solution, with local cached content”. The carrier partnered with Miami, Florida-based hardware company Avionica and software firm Labone, which has an office in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to create the Wi-Fi platform.
The content is updated at nine airports in Gol’s system where the airline has an agreement for Wi-Fi access at its gates, the carrier explains. An inflight entertainment server searches for the content server hosted through the Amazon Cloud solution to download the audio and video content. “With an average half-hour turnaround time, the system is able to update at each landing,” says Gol.
Intensified competition in the Brazilian domestic market likely forced Gol to devise a wireless solution to enhance the passenger experience. Gol’s main rival and Brazil’s largest carrier TAM debuted OnAir’s mobile connectivity solution in 2010 and now 31 of the carrier’s aircraft are equipped with the service that allows passengers to use the GSM network to send texts, emails and and surf the Internet in-flight from mobile phones, smart phones and tablets. TAM has also said it plans to offer connectivity through OnAir on new widebody aircraft — 12 777-300ERs by 2014, and 10 Airbus 330s and 27 A350s scheduled for delivery from 2014 and 2018.
Roughly seven months after Gol unveiled its wireless IFE concept TAM, OnAir and Brazilian mobile phone operator Oi introduced a plan to cut rates paid by passengers using the inflight mobile connectivity solution on their own devices by 50%.
While the Gol on Air product is offered for free to Gol’s passengers, some of the content does feature banner ads. The carrier declined to offer insight into usage rates and the most popular content, declaring that such information was proprietary.
Asked by the APEX editor’s blog if it has any plans to evolve the wireless IFE product into a hybrid model in which it could sell some content to generate ancillary revenues, Gol says it “is always evaluating opportunities for innovations which benefit its customers and provides positive business impact”.