Seamless Air Alliance announces inflight connectivity’s first industry standard

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The Seamless Air Alliance has announced the very first standard for inflight connectivity. The standard will strive to set the bar for airlines and network operators to work towards in order to deliver a passenger experience that is seamlessly connected between the ground and the skies.

inflight connectivity
The Seamless Air Alliance has introduced a new standard. Photo: Unsplash

Seamless Release 1.0

The Seamless Air Alliance, an alliance of airlines and service providers designed to accelerate the take up of connectivity in the air, has this week published the world’s first-ever standard for inflight connectivity.

The standard was developed by the Seamless Air Alliance in collaboration with its member companies. These include major stakeholders in the inflight connectivity space, including SES, SITAONAIR, Inmarsat and Airbus as well as airlines including Delta, Virgin Atlantic and Etihad.

Called the Seamless Release 1.0, the standard establishes a modular platform architecture for inflight connectivity. This brings about a standard based on a modular structure with open interfaces, meaning airlines will be able to rapidly adopt emerging technologies without needing to refit their entire fleet’s hardware.

Seamless Release
The Seamless Release 1.0 ties together cellular and WiFi systems. Photo: Seamless Air Alliance

The CEO of the alliance, Jack Mandala, commented on the standard, saying that,

“Passenger demands for inflight connectivity are still ahead of the performance of systems putting increasing pressure on airlines to find a way to meet these expectations and gain passenger loyalty. Seamless Release 1.0 changes the game by enabling airlines to take advantage of new capacity and innovations faster and more cost-effectively than ever before.”

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The alliance says that the standard will enable long term flexibility for airlines, giving them confidence that their selection of IFC providers will continue to be a good choice for the foreseeable future.

Does inflight connectivity need a standard?

To date, there has been no official standard for companies in the IFEC space to work towards. Although suppliers have to ensure compliance with industry rules, there is no requirement for their technology to be comparable with any other supplier’s equipment or software.

As such, there is often a distinct divide between airlines and which companies they choose for inflight connectivity. In some cases, we’ve even seen airlines choosing multiple different providers as a means of hedging their investment. For suppliers, this is a good thing, and a natural form of competition.

The benefits of the standard go both ways. Photo: Seamless Air Alliance

Having said that, there are some key benefits to all stakeholders of adopting an industry standard. For passengers, connecting once on boar will be easier and more familiar, whereas for airlines there will be a newfound freedom to take advantage of new innovations without significant additional investment.

Technology suppliers will find their products easier to sell, as the customer can be confident that equipment will be upgraded as new technology comes about. Even mobile operators will benefit thanks to the inclusion of seamless roaming, which the alliance estimates will release services to an estimated 4.5bn passengers each year.

Overall, having a standard to work to is going to make it easier for airlines to make a good choice of inflight connectivity provider. If the adoption of the standard is as good as the Seamless Air Alliance is clearly hoping, it could stimulate industry-wide economies of scale as well as higher uptake of IFC technology. Could this be paving the way towards free to use WiFI for everyone?

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