APEX: Panasonic Avionics delivers very upbeat forecast

Panasonic Avionics headquarters in Lake Forest, California.
Panasonic Avionics headquarters in Lake Forest, California.

Panasonic Avionics has given the press an update on its business at a media conference held at the Apex Expo in Long Beach, California.

David Bruner, Panasonic Avionics Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, said that the company doesn’t normally talk about its financials, but this year it would.

He said Panasonic Avionics’ projected full year revenue for 2017 was $2.5bn.

“Inflight Connectivity (IFC) is growing at a massive rate,” Bruner said. “Our business is healthy and is trending in line with our industry.

“We’re not packing up in the next year. Were in this business for the long run and have invested our own money. We think that being stable is vitally important. Airlines need to know the suppliers will be around long-term.

“We have no debt, and it is a self-sustaining business. With almost 1,800 aircraft equipped, and with 2,200 or so in the backlog, this gets us to around 4,000 aircraft in total.

Customer Announcements

“And in the next few weeks we will have more new customer announcements. That’s a good solid number upon which to build our business.”

Since April 2017, Panasonic Avionics has had 185 IFC deliveries of which 85 were linefit.

Bruner said: “Every aircraft is going to have connectivity, they are all going to have IFE.

David Bruner, Panasonic Avionics Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing
David Bruner, Panasonic Avionics Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing

“The IFC forecast is that by 2023, 90% of all widebodies will be IFC-equipped, as will 65% of all narrow bodies.

“There are some great statistics here, and we are still forecasting that we will have 10,000 aircraft committed to Panasonic Avionics for IFC by 2025.”

Bruner said the world of flight will change dramatically in the future as every aircraft you get on will have IFC.

Panasonic has 90 customers (45 in service) It also has 500 aircraft with mobile phone connectivity fitted and 750 with global live television.

“On our live TV service, 90% of passengers on board one flight watched the presidential debates. You could not have had this in the past.

“We have new channels in Japan with ANA and more new channels are being rolled out worldwide over the next six-nine months,” he said.

Sport 24

Passengers watching live TV via Panasonic Avionics.Passengers watching live TV via Panasonic Avionics.Passengers watching live TV via Panasonic Avionics.
Passengers watching live TV via Panasonic Avionics.

The Sport 24 TV channel via IMG is still an exclusive service with Panasonic.

“Sometime two channels of sport are available, which allows us to boost the service around big events,” he said.

“One of the new features is an electronic programme guide so that you can schedule your viewing.

“You hear that people don’t want live TV any more, because they watch Netflix. You gotta be joking! They want a mix of programming and we can offer just that.”

Bruner said that they are also seeing increasing interest in mobile phone connectivity upgrades to 3.5G services.

“We will double our satellite capacity to 8GHz in 2018 and we are available on 99.8% of airline routes. We are rolling out new modem technology and SES-15 is coming online in January 2018. This is the first Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS) with higher-density Ku-band spot beams. We are everywhere our customers fly.”

He said even higher-speed XTS satellite technology is still moving forward and the first of these satellites will launch in 2019.

“Things are changing. It’s going to make people sit back and take a closer look,” said Bruner.

“Radical change is also coming to the 2021-2022 time frame that is going to shake the industry dramatically.

LEO and MEO satellites

“New LEO and MEO satellites will disrupt our business. These things are happening. And we will adapt to the marketplace and take advantage of these new technologies and capacity.

“These new satellites will offer more capacity, lower cost, and offer much lower latency. Panasonic will be in a position to take advantage of this technology when the time comes.”

He added that its next-generation Newtec modems, which offer better throughput and better quality, are also being rolled out.

“We ship 200 of these modems a month,” Bruner said. “We are starting in North America where we have 12 teleports and the network is live.

“We should have 200 aircraft operating with the new modems by the end of the year and it will be rolled out globally in 2018.

“More than 2,000 aircraft are scheduled for modem retrofit and new aircraft get the Newtec modem from day one.”

With regard to its NEXT IFEC platform, Bruner said that it expects to announce its launch customer in the coming months.

A developer platform on NEXT facilitates custom apps and functionality via SDKs and APIs.

“This will really benefit airlines and allow them to be more agile for new applications. We’re here to help them design, develop and deploy custom interactive apps,” Bruner said.

Phased-array antennas

As for aircraft satellite antennas, Bruner said that a couple of years ago it had a programme with Boeing on a phased-array antenna and it was the best performer on the market.

“It was a beautiful antenna, but it didn’t meet the price point airlines wanted,” he said.

“We wanted an antenna with the same performance, but half the price.

“There are changes happening today with phased-array and flat-panel antennas, but we don’t want to field a product too early.”

He said the main driver is to support both LEO and MEO satellites.

“You need to be able to look at two LEO/MEO satellites simultaneously for hand-offs,” he said. “We will monitor that technology and will have a phased-array antenna ready when needed.

“Most of these new satellites will use Ka and Ku at the same time and we need to support those terminals too,” Bruner concluded.

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