Yesterday I read a news headline that proclaimed, “When it comes to inflight Wi-Fi, supply far exceeds demand”. I couldn’t disagree more. One need only use inflight Wi-Fi – or read the complaints on social media from people who do – to see that demand far exceeds the capacity of current onboard connectivity systems, be they air-to-ground (ATG), L-band or Ku.
Does this speak to the limitations of the systems themselves (and the fact that we can’t bend the laws of physics and mathematics in-flight)? Are airlines simply not willing to pay for additional capacity? Or, perhaps, are we PED-happy passengers – and our seemingly insatiable appetites for bandwidth – to blame?
Whatever the reason(s), it seems clear that airlines and inflight connectivity providers must manage passenger expectations. A couple of years ago Gogo started telling passengers that streaming video from a website “requires extensive bandwidth and will not work as well on a plane as it does on the ground”.
That’s a good start.
On the other hand, Lufthansa – which offers Panasonic Avionics’ Ku-band satellite service – assures on its ‘FlyNet’ web site that “boundless broadband connectivity” is available on long-haul flights. This might explain why some people still try to send emails with 4MB attachments!
APEX will tackle the timely topic of capacity constraints – and ask the hard questions of the world’s leading inflight connectivity providers and satellite operators – during the Technology Committee’s education event on 26-27 March in London. And we’ll look at the service level an airline – or more importantly an airline passenger – can reasonably expect to receive. Find out all the details here. And if you’d like to add your questions or comments to the discussion, please feel free to leave a message in the comment section of this blog.
Meanwhile, if you need any further evidence that big bandwidth is a big deal, look no further than Intelsat’s latest press statement. Referencing the failed launch of Intelsat 27 – a satellite that was, among other things, earmarked to support the Ku-band capacity requirements of Panasonic and Gogo, and in turn their airlines customers – Intelsat CEO Dave McGlade says:
“While the failure of the launch of Intelsat 27 early this month was deeply disappointing, we are already reconfiguring our satellite fleet to accommodate customer requirements, including on our global broadband mobility infrastructure, a demonstration of the resilience and flexibility of our global satellite network. We also plan to order a replacement satellite with a payload that addresses the specific needs of our media customers in the Americas. We enter 2013 with $10.7 billion in contract backlog and the resources to meet expanding demand for broadband connectivity, global media distribution solutions, and innovative, end-to-end government services.”
$10.7 billion in overall contract backlog you say? Shazam.