What does 2017 have in store for inflight connectivity?

Thales inflight connectivity aircraft graphicLast year will be remembered for a number of key milestones in the inflight connectivity sector. But 2017 should go down as a year of consolidation for many new technologies.

Inmarsat had the “soft launch” of its Ka-band GX Aviation service in October 2016, but it really hasn’t had a chance to gain much traction in the industry.

Lufthansa was due to commence commercial passenger services with GX Aviation (or “GX for Aviation” according to recent press releases) in November 2016. Other known customers of the new Ka-band solution include Singapore Airlines and Air Astana.

But what we need to see is some heavyweight Middle Eastern carriers adopting GX – and we also need to see what Emirates does about the L-band SwiftBroadband solution fitted to its A380s.

Both Inmarsat and Panasonic Avionics say Emirates is talking to them about improving connectivity on the A380s, but no official announcement has been made as to whether the airline will go Ka, Ku or a mix.

This year Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom will also continue work on the hybrid satellite/4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) European Aviation Network (EAN), due to launch in 2018.

Speaking of Panasonic, it is likely to have a busy year after announcing a new high-speed modem with Newtec in November.

HTS Ku-band

Couple with the higher-energy spot beams of HTS Ku-band satellites like Intelsat’s EpicNG series, and it promises to give Ka-band services like ViaSat’s and Inmarsat’s a run for their money.

We haven’t yet seen what EpicNG is really capable of, but the future looks promising. Intelsat 29e is already up and running and Intelsat 33e is also close on its tail, having initially had problems with its positioning.

The in-service date for I-33e has being adjusted from the fourth quarter 2016 to first quarter 2017.

Due to a malfunction in the primary thruster, the orbit raising took longer than planned. The satellite’s solar arrays and antennas have been successfully deployed, and after completion of the in-orbit testing, the satellite will be ready for service sometime in the first quarter of this year.

ViaSat is on course for two new satellite launches in 2017 and 2019, extending its Ka-band capacity considerably. ViaSat-2 is due up this quarter and ViaSat-3 is currently scheduled for launch in the second half of 2019, also with Arianespace.

ViaSat also acquired Arconics in November 2016. The company is an innovative provider of software solutions to the aviation industry and through the acquisition ViaSat says its gains broader expertise, aviation-grade software and mobile applications.

Gogo 2Ku inflight connectivity

Gogo meanwhile continues to scoop up inflight connectivity customers for its 2Ku product, which “Get Connected’s” Steve Nichols tested over the UK back in April 2016. It will continue rolling out installations in 2017.

Otherwise, we expect to hear a lot of news from suppliers like Thales, Global Eagle Entertainment, Rockwell Collins, Honeywell Aerospace and many more.

“Get Connected’s” Steve Nichols plans to be at AIX Hamburg in April, Ebace in May and the Apex Expo in September. Plus there are likely to be other inflight connectivity events. press trips and conferences to attend as well.

Rest assured 2017 will not be a boring year for the inflight connectivity industry!

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