Friday, June 13, 2008
WiFi In Sky Means Big Bucks For Airlines
How do airlines combat the rising cost of fuel?
Today they are starting to charge for checked in luggage, but soon they will become the internet service provider in the sky.
From ABC News WiFI In Sky Means Big Bucks For Airlines
-the effort's gaining momentum with at least four airlines planning to roll out in-flight internet access before long, and research suggests it could be a cash cow.
Multimedia Intelligence says sales of in-flight digital broadband likely will exceed $1 billion by 2012
Two technologies have emerged so far, and with that kind of money to be made, several players are jockeying for position in what promises to be a big game.
Air-to-ground (ATG) uses frequencies to transmit signals from ground stations to aircraft in something of a WiFi in the sky. It uses existing infrastructure -- cell towers -- and so is relatively cheap to set up, but at 3-Mbps (buffering... buffering...) throughput per plane, the connections are slow.
That could soon change. (my take)
Harris Corp, a large communications equipment supplier to the FAA, just announced their aviation broadband solution with speeds up to 35 Mbps per plane at this aviation conference
This is an Air-to-ground solution (ATG) is able to offer 10xs the capacity at same or lower cost. In most cases they offer 10-50x more bandwidth and 5-100xs lower cost per bit.
Satellite systems transmit signals using a data transceiver/router, satellite antenna, and 802.11b access points. The big advantage over ATG is its availability -- it works anywhere, including over water -- and it is considered by some to be more robust with a data rate of about 30 Mbps per plane (think low-end DSL). But it costs more for airlines to set up, which is a big consideration for an industry that's hemorrhaging cash.
The Illinois firm Aircell will outfit American Airlines' transcontinental 767 fleet with its air-to-ground product, and Virgin Atlantic has signed on as well.
Southwest is testing a satellite system by the California company Row 44 , and Alaska Airlines is looking at it, too.
JetBlue just announced it's pumping up its LiveTV operation by buying Verizon's Airfone network.
After years of looking for a buyer, Verizon Communications Inc on Monday agreed to sell its Airfone in-flight telephone service to LiveTV LLC
On the international side, Lufthansa has teamed up with T-Mobile, satellite operator SES Global and signal processing equipment maker ViaSat to offer a satellite based service.
There are approximately 2000 planes in air at any one time in US or Europe and the leading player can't accommodate even a fraction of these planes.
Dana Waldman, chief executive officer of Voyant International commented in the aviation broadband release, “Harris’ state-of-the art technology and support will allow us to offer our airline customers the high broadband capacity and excellent service they require.”
More ponderings on Aviation Broadband