Aircell and a golden ticket

Well, well, well. Delta wasn’t kidding when it told me on Friday to expect an announcement today describing the carrier’s planned rollout of Aircell’s Gogo Internet service. I bashed out a quick and dirty here but the key facts are that Gogo on Tuesday will go live on five Boeing MD-88s that operate shuttle service on the BosWash corridor, as well as a single Boeing 757 flying throughout its system. A total 10 aircraft will be equipped with Gogo by the end of the year.

Delta 757.jpgThen, in 2009, Delta will continue to add Gogo across its domestic fleet, first on MD-88s, MD-90s, 757s and Boeing 737 aircraft, and expanding to the remaining domestic fleet of Boeing 767-300 aircraft by late 2009.

Significantly, Delta and Aircell will begin the certification process for the mainline domestic fleet of the airline’s new Northwest Airlines subsidiary in early 2009 with Gogo installations scheduled to begin in late 2009.

Okay, so that’s what we know from today’s release. But what isn’t so apparent? Well, as previously hinted, Aircell is getting very clever about its broader offering. It ain’t all about Internet, folks!

Indeed Gogo is capable of delivering a wide range of content from its media server directly to end users’ devices (laptops, gaming devices, etc) over its in-cabin Wi-Fi network. That service will be rolled out next year.

So what types of content are we talking about?

“In terms of the types of content we’re talking about, we will be working to deliver games, television, movies, music and more,” says an Aircell spokesman, noting that since content would be stored on the airplane in the media server (as opposed to pulled across the Internet) bandwidth is not really a concern.

“Essentially, it’s no different than if you were at your house watching a video you had streamed from a home server to your laptop. Make sense?”

Golden Ticket.JPG

It does indeed. Cached content that is frequently updated for a feels-like-live-TV experience! As Willy Wonka would say: “Wait a minute! Strike that. Reverse it!” Is this kind of like LiveTV’s strategy only in complete reverse?

As previously reported here, LiveTV has a multi-pronged connectivity strategy, which involves offering its basic Kiteline messaging and email product to airline customers now (parent JetBlue is flying the service) while developing two broader solutions for the future, including Oasis which will offer a “feels like broadband” experience by cleverly combining Kiteline with the stored content-upload capabilities of LiveTV’s wireless aircraft data link (WADL) system.

Hmmm. That’s something to think about, Charlie Bucket. Some would argue that Monday Night Football is less interesting on Tuesday when the scores are in. But Colorado-based Aircell assures that the stored content will be extremely fresh. 

“For example, while a plane idles overnight at the airport, tremendous amounts of content could be beamed/uploaded onto the server and then available on the first flight in the morning. The possibilities are quite exciting,” says the Aircell spokesman.

Indeed. And here are two additional creamy tidbits for good measure:

Tidbit # 1 Aircell’s cached content will be able to offer passengers the choice to watch what they want, when they want (i.e., if you are still finishing up some work when the inflight movie starts, you can finish up and start the movie when you want to).

Tidbit # 2 Passengers will be able to finish watching their selections on the ground if they do not complete them on the flight.

I really like that last one. God, after all that I need a piece of chocolate. Luckily for me, I live across the street from a chocolate factory. It’s called Wilbur and it makes a milk chocolate as close to Cadbury as you’re going to find on this side of the Atlantic.

(Golden ticket taken from Jamie Isaac’s own image created from chocolate factory films)

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2 Responses to Aircell and a golden ticket

  1. Middle East Man December 16, 2008 at 2:10 am #

    Hey Red,

    I’m struggling to see how Aircell or the customer airlines can offer distributed/streamed locally cached content to passengers.

    1, The required bandwidth available in the cabin over the 802.11 WiFi for any significant number of passengers is surely a concern unless they have many access points throughout the cabin. If each wireless access point is providing 54Mbps it doesn’t really allow for that many passengers to be downloading/streaming content simultaneously.

    2, Locally stored news, weather and sports updates will be suitable for passenger access but I believe the airlines will run into serious issues with content licensing if they are caching movies, short TV programs or audio tracks for passenger download. Passengers will surely not be allowed to download the content to their own devices unless they are paying license fees in addition to the roaming/connectivity charges. If this is the case one would have to ask whether passengers would really pay for media when they already have open access to the internet.

    MEM

  2. Mary Kirby December 16, 2008 at 9:37 am #

    I’m reminded of Panasonic director of product marketing Cedric Rhoads’ earlier comments to me about the challenges of wireless IFE at http://tinyurl.com/66ebbf
    Rhoads says: “In the 787 wireless IFE design there was insufficient 802.11 spectrum to give us what we needed to do a wireless network serving 250 passengers with centrally stored, on-demand content on dedicated wireless channels. Across the 787 type cabin, and this was roughly in the range of about 250 seats, we had to reuse spectrum from the front to the rear of the aircraft to ensure sufficient on-demand bandwidth. The consequence of this was that very specific, custom antennas were required to mitigate interference in the re-used channels that had to operate simultaneously within the same airframe.”