Posts Tagged “e-enablement”

Panasonic Avionics Unveils Third Generation Satellite Communications Network

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At the Las Vegas CES, Panasonic Avionics Corporation introduced a “major evolution of its satellite connectivity service” with the introduction of its third generation communications network.

The company’s PR states that its third generation network is built to meet the growing connectivity demands of airlines and their passengers. Throughout the first quarter of 2018, aircraft from a number of airlines will be transitioned to Panasonic’s new network. In addition, Panasonic subsidiary, ITC Global, will leverage Panasonic’s new broadband network to deliver connectivity to its energy, maritime and enterprise customers.

Hideo Nakano, Panasonic Avionics Corporation CEO, says: “Our new satellite communications network is more than just greater bandwidth – it represents a major evolution in our approach to partnering with customers to deliver the highest standards of service and to ensure that their passengers enjoy an unmatched, connected experience inflight.”

The new communications network is built on Panasonic’s high throughput satellite service, which today covers all dense mobility traffic areas around the globe with high throughput spot beams and wide overlay beams that support Panasonic’s global in-flight television service. When combined with the rollout of the company’s new satellite modem, developed in conjunction with Newtec, Panasonic now offers bandwidth up to twenty times greater than previously available. This supports the provision of services such as a fast internet, video streaming, VoIP applications, improved TV picture quality and a broader channel choice, the capability to offer 3G phone services, and greater bandwidth for crew applications.

The network is backed by a range of new measures Panasonic has launched to provide higher levels of support to its customers. These initiatives are channeled through Panasonic’s new Customer Performance Center, which drives enhanced network performance, reduced outage times, and faster response and resolution times for all customer inquiries.  The Customer Performance Center offers a range of value-added services including traffic shaping tools, live monitoring and management of the user experience, and Panasonic’s ZeroTouch service, which enables real-time content loading, validation, and management.

Currently, over 1,800 aircraft around the world use Panasonic’s global high-speed in-flight connectivity service. The company expects more than 10,000 aircraft to be connected to its world-class global high-speed communications network by 2025.

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Connectivity demand keeps growing

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The airline industry seems to be pushing for ever more bandwidth on their aircraft. An early pioneer in this is Lufthansa which was among the first airlines to sign up for Boeing Connexion. Even after that program was abandoned, Lufthansa stayed committed to in-flight connectivity.  Recently the airline was again pioneering and pushing for more bandwidth, and is now a user of the Panasonic solution. It appears the airline is experimenting with other options collaborating with Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom.

The move by Lufthansa is not unique. As airlines take delivery of ever more e-Enabled aircraft the pressure is on to exploit the promise of better data transmissions to drive efficiency. To extract the maximum value proposition of e-Enablement, connectivity is key and better bandwidth is the Holy Grail. Take a look at this 2012 document from Star Alliance on e-Enablement.

If the US, GoGo is the king of in-flight connectivity with 70% market share. It has a system based on terrestrial signals and is moving to satellite. Big customers like Delta (whose entire fleet has Wi-Fi from GoGo and is the world’s largest connected fleet) want to offer customers connectivity offshore. The terrestrial system stays connected only within about 100 miles of the US coastline.

Satellite signals are much faster than terrestrial. Faster means bigger bandwidth. As any Wi-Fi user knows, faster is better than just about anything else.

What else is going on with connectivity? Airlines have converted to the ancillary revenue model. They want to sell everything and Wi-Fi is seen as another salable item. It is rare to see anyone on an aircraft without some sort of device that can’t exploit Wi-Fi. From smartphones to PEDS, everyone wants connectivity. Facebook alone is probably the biggest boost to demand for in-flight connectivity.

The problem for airlines has been a mix of issues: the cost for the service is a hurdle. But even so when you get online, the bandwidth has been spotty.   Nothing frustrates a consumer more than seeing an uncertain value proposition get turned upside down in seconds. GoGo sees demand skyrocket during the holidays when their service is sponsored by big brand firms encouraging online shopping.  So demand exists, if the value proposition is guaranteed not to disappoint, it should be a great ancillary business.

The rapid growth in personal devices is also impacting how airlines see the future of in-flight entertainment. Delta already encourages passengers to download an App to handle movies before they fly. Qatar Airways CEO dropped something of a bomb bound to get the seat-back hardware firms unsettled. Saying: “Traditional IFE systems are heavy, not reliable and suffer from excessive costs from the manufacturers. And there are only really two suppliers – Panasonic and Thales. In my opinion, people will bring smart devices and get content via the internet. Qatar will continue to provide access to exclusive content but this is a better option than an expensive IFE system.”  The connectivity he can sell, the seat back content is provided at no charge on expensive hardware that is frequently broken.

So the case for connectivity is growing from the cabin even as installed devices may not have a bright future as it was once thought to have. Any MRO shop will tell you broken IFE is a major issue on aircraft shop visits. Besides the speed of the embedded technology is slow. These systems require approval from the likes of the FAA. If you want to slowdown progress, bring in the government regulators. As a service industry, an airline is better off getting out of the hardware business. And this is coming.

We think the business case for airlines offering connectivity and focusing the cost recovery on passengers is too risky. Passengers want to as closely as possible enjoy in-flight what they have on the ground and this is typically free Wi-Fi. Even airports offer this, and being stuck in an airport is the best place to charge for a signal since the audience is captured and can’t go anywhere.

Which brings us back to e-Enabled aircraft. We expect to see strong demand for connectivity rise from behind the cockpit door. Already some airlines (Lufthansa again) use the in-flight connectivity signals on the flight deck, and this is bound to grow. Norwegian famously noted that they don’t care if passengers get the signals for free since the airline recovers the cost by giving its pilots the connectivity.

So because of the growth in flight operations demand, we anticipate to see aircraft connectivity to grow fast. As an example of why this is needed, take the Pratt & Whitney GTF engine. This new technology engine has some 5,500 parameters being measured continuously.   The new Rolls-Royce Trent XWB also is rich in sensors as part of its Engine Health Management system. The Bombardier C Series and Embraer E2 are aircraft that will acts as nodes on the airline’s IT network. We believe the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo will work the same way. The 787 already delivers real-time data to Boeing.  Airlines have bought into e-Enablement and this means they require connectivity as they do fuel.

It is therefore clear that the next phase in aerospace will drive demand for more bandwidth. Even as firms start to offer better data throughput via satellites, we expect to see demand outpace supply. The reason for this is that just as we have seen on the ground, there is never enough bandwidth.   While e-Enabled aircraft can easily connect to airline IT networks as they pull up to a gate and perform data exchanges, this probably will not be enough. Already there has been a big push to ensure aircraft are continually sending their locations to airline OCCs. The shadows cast by AF447, MH370 and MH17 are long.

Airlines are going to embrace aircraft and engine monitoring. These require, in an ideal world, exploitation of real-time connectivity. But there is a longer food chain that benefits. For example, a lessor benefits by knowing where their assets are at any time. Moreover, they can monitor the use of these assets – is it being flown hard or gently? This information is crucial to the residual value. Presently lessors make calculated guesses and in future they could have much better knowledge of the asset. Another interested party is an insurance company with an equal interest in the risk they are covering. Had Allianz known the daily flight path of MH17 over Ukraine, might they have anticipated trouble and asked the flight path to be moved?  These questions are not as theoretical as you might think.

The Bottom Line

It should be clear that more bandwidth is only beneficial. For those who are skeptical of this assertion, consider one final point. Airlines run into trouble every year – no year is without some sort of aviation disaster. With each disaster the legal profession comes forward to extract maximum damages. When an OEM, airline and lessor are facing some future lawsuit we know the lawyers are going to ask the timeless question: “What did you know, when did you know it and what did you do about it?”

Ignorance of the potential of accessing flight operations data will not protect anyone. If anyone (OEM, airlines, lessor, etc.) pleads that they knew the data existed or could be accessed but chose not to, the lawyers will have a field day.

With technology currently available for advanced satellite communications and additional operational applications available, a revolution in communications is underway, and higher bandwidth, with more sophisticated applications, will change airline operations.  Not to embrace this evolution adds to risk.  What you don’t know could cost a lot of money in damages.

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Rolls-Royce, Microsoft & Singapore Airlines to collaborate

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Today at the Farnborough show, Rolls Royce, Microsoft and Singapore Airlines announced a plan to collaborate on something called “TotalCare Digital”.  The idea is to take best in class solutions and add together the data flows from advanced analytics  and the “Internet of things” (henceforth called IoT) and roll this into Rolls-Royce TotalCare services offering.  It is hoped the outcome will reduce costs while improving on-time performance – essentially providing the customer with better value.

Microsoft will bring its Azure cloud and its IoT suite to collect data from “disparate sources” and then allow its Cortana Intelligence Suite to uncover insights.  This is basically Big Data as we have seen and heard about before.

Singapore Airlines hopes this solution will reduce its fuel burn, fly routes more efficiently and monitor its Rolls-Royce engines better.  Even engine washes will be monitored.  Since 4% of an airlines costs is engine maintenance (according to Rolls-Royce), the engine maker is very interested in making this work.  With so many new engines running on PBH, the onus to keep that engine in peak condition lies with the OEM.

The move is to be cheered.  But e-Enabled aircraft are not new.  The scads of data thrown off by the next generation of engines is well known.  New engines and even aircraft are carrying a lot more sensors.  Each of these generate data at unheard of rates in the airline industry.  The IoT is a nice term, but hardly ground breaking.

Other engine makers have been talking about this for some time and indeed doing something about it.  If Rolls-Royce is playing catch-up, at least they chose strong partners.

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2015 EFB Survey Report

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Our fourth annual EFB survey report will be available from Monday January 18.  The 34 page report (PDF) includes six sections (Airline Operations, Connectivity, Business Case Drivers, Future Planning, Cyber Security, Tablet EFBs) with 46 charts and a foreword by IATA. The survey has input from 80 airlines, making it one of the broadest sources on this subject.

If you are interested in getting your electronic copy on Monday please email us.

We are also offering clients access to the survey data (without airline identifications). The data set is from surveys undertaken in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.   The data is in Excel format and enables unlimited analyses.  If you are interested in this option, please use the email link above to contact us.  Delivery is available now.

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LAN and TAM: new technologies for pilots and crew

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LAN and TAM, member airlines of LATAM Airlines Group, are the first in South America to develop and deliver, for pilots and flight crew, a tablet with applications specially designed to facilitate, optimize and improve both the management of operational information during each flight and the flight service.  Some 3,000 tablets are being deployed. (more…)

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Rockwell Collins shows off advanced antennae

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Rockwell Collins has signed an MOU with OneWeb Ltd. to be the exclusive developer and provider of SATCOM terminals for OneWeb’s global aviation high-speed broadband service. Rockwell Collins will also be an authorized Value Added Reseller of OneWeb connectivity services. Under the agreement, OneWeb will team with Rockwell Collins to develop and certify the SATCOM terminals, which will utilize electronically scanned array (ESA) antenna technology developed by Rockwell Collins’ Advanced Technology Center. Using rapid beam movement and reconfigurable antenna patterns, ESA antennas provide high levels of performance to ensure that aircraft stay connected during flight.

“The antenna is a fraction of the size and weight of a traditional airborne SATCOM antenna, which means significant long-term cost savings for airlines from reduced fuel consumption,” said John Borghese, vice president, Advanced Technology Center for Rockwell Collins. “In addition, the unique design and scalability of our Ku-band ESA technology matched with the OneWeb network opens up possibilities to enable connectivity in other markets beyond aerospace.”

Given last week’s news about Rockwell Collins offering enhanced aircraft tracking, this new service appears to build on that and extract more value from the connectivity process.  This much smaller antennae is bound to attract a lot of attention because airlines no longer have to be persuaded of the need for connectivity as they once were.  Having better broadband capacity enhances passenger experiences its true.  But the greater value by far is improved airline flight operations.

This is what the first generation antennae looked like on a Lufthansa 747-400.

By 2014, these had shrunk in height and clearly also reduced drag. This is a Panasonic antennae.

And here is what OneWeb plans on offering – the shrinkage is remarkable.  Interestingly, OneWeb’s directors include the Executive Chairman of Qualcomm and Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group.

OneWeb’s system will provide business jet, commercial airline and military aviation customers with airtime services that could include weather, navigation and health monitoring of the aircraft. What we have here is a key component that drives e-Enablement.

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