Global Eagle gears up for flydubai inflight connectivity launch

Flydubai Boeing 737. Image:Boeing
flydubai Boeing 737. Image:Boeing

Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) will shortly start installing its Ku-band satellite connectivity equipment on flydubai’s fleet of 737 aircraft.

In June, GEE announced it had signed a contract with flydubai to equip the low-cost carrier’s current and future fleet of Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft with its broadband/Wi-Fi Airconnect system.

GEE said the deployment on flydubai will be the industry’s first to provide a bundled solution of inflight connectivity, in-seat IFE content and the provision for airline operational data exchange, all from a single provider.

The integrated IFEC solution will offer WiFi-enabled internet connectivity, an extensive library of stored content, such as local and international movies and TV shows, and other media delivered to passengers’ handheld devices.

Flydubai is still in the process of finalising all the relevant details, timelines and fitting schedule for the fleet and it says more details will be announced later in the year.

Infrastructure

Aditya Chatterjee, GEE's chief technology officer.
Aditya Chatterjee, GEE’s chief technology officer.

Aditya Chatterjee, GEE’s chief technology officer, told “Get Connected”: “The contract with flydubai is unusual in that it involves far more than just inflight connectivity. We’ve had to look at the satellites, the infrastructure and how you design coverage for all of the airline’s routes.

“We will start to install the equipment on the flydubai aircraft in late October and we expect the airline to may make an announcement about the service during the Dubai Air Show,” Chatterjee said.

“We’ve put a lot of concentrated focus and effort into this project over the last few months,” he said. “This includes getting an STC on the Tecom antenna we are using at launch.”

GEE is also working on a new high-performance antenna that will ultimately take over from the Tecom model.

“Our new Global Ku antenna, which will be built by QEST, will fit under the existing radome and be form and fit compatible with the old one, right down to the connections.

“The new antenna offers lower weight with more performance, and because of its three-axis movement will work better nearer the equator and at high latitudes,” he said.

Performance

Chatterjee said that GEE is absolutely convinced that it can give flydubai the performance it wants.

“We have to fit antennas to around 50 flydubai B737NG aircraft and there are around 100-plus B737 MAXs too,” he said. “When the time comes, we will switch to fitting the new Global Ku antenna and even consider retrofitting it, although that isn’t essential.”

Over Europe, GEE will use the Astra-4A satellite, which it uses for other customers including its current trial with Air France. It will add Astra-3B for further European coverage.

“In terms of bandwidth, we have plenty for flydubai,” said Chatterjee.

“The amount of bandwidth should be well in excess of 200Mbps overall. We’ll keep on adding capacity as it is required – we don’t know exactly what will be required. It all depends on how the service develops and what we find people use it for,” he said.

Capacity

In March 2015 GEE signed a further contract for capacity on three new SES HTS Ku-band satellites.

Flydubai’s routes include as far north as Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow, as far east as Chittagong and Kathmandu, west to Ljubljana and Prague, and south to Zanzibar and Entebbe.

As GEE expands its services to new airlines and regions, it says it can quickly and seamlessly leverage capacity across the global SES fleet of more than 50 satellites.

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