IFE&C news and rumour roundup (Dec 12)

UPDATED to include EMS Technologies’ acquisition of Formation, and a Delta disclosure

It has been a busy week in the world of IFE&C so let’s do a little roundup of all the stuff I didn’t get a chance to write about, shall we?

HARD NEWS:

EMS Technologies has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Formation, a New Jersey-based provider of airborne wireless network products that enable in-flight passenger communications with terrestrial and satellite networks. Formation is an approved direct supplier to Airbus and also is a major supplier to Rockwell Collins, Aircell and Panasonic. An EMS spokeswoman says: “With Formation, we will able to participate in terrestrial (tower-based) broadband aero broadband systems now being rolled out with major North American airlines.” See the company’s full statement

Delta Air Lines is currently testing Aircell’s Gogo and expects to launch the service before the end of the year. Wouldn’t that be a nice Christmas present? Check out the Delta blog for a touch more info. Delta previously said it intends to initially install Gogo on its fleet of Boeing MD-88s and MD-90s. A Delta spokesman says today that the carrier will release a statement on Monday about its rollout of Gogo. A launch by year-end is still in the works, he assures.

Aircell is targeting commitments for Gogo to reach 2,000 commercial aircraft by the end of 2009. Thus far, the company has secured five customers – Delta, American, Virgin America, Air Canada, and an undisclosed carrier. It fully anticipates dominating in this sector in 2009.

Also during 2009, Aircell plans to expand its network and Gogo offering “including adding rich, multimedia applications such as games, television, movies and music”. Expect a more thorough conversation about this on RWG next week. But suffice it to say that Aircell is getting very clever with its onboard servers.

As previously reported on RWG, Aircell has been working with Panasonic to offer Gogo connectivity over Virgin America’s “Red” embedded IFE system. “We have also had discussions with Thales, who is Air Canada’s IFE provider,” the firm says. Indeed Gogo expects to be a driving force behind the emergence of connectivity-enabled IFE in 2009.

Wow, that’s a lot of news from Aircell. What about other firms?

Well German firm Qest, which recently received the “2008 Frost & Sullivan European Technology Innovation Award for Airborne Broadband Antennas” as previously hinted here, reports that a prototype of its Ku band antenna aperture is exceeding performance expectations.

Qest award.JPG

The antenna’s performance complies “not only with FCC regulations but also with European ETSI as well as with international ITU standards”, says Qest, adding that serial production is planned to start around mid of 2009″. Check out some slides of Qest’s antenna design portfolio at the following link.


QEST_Antenna Design Portfolio_2008_11.pdf

RUMOUR and SPECULATION from a little birdie (ie. unsubstantiated):

Panasonic is installing its eXConnect system on an Embraer aircraft as a test platform (now that is interesting).

Panasonic’s loss of that big British Airways IFE deal to Thales was an embarrassment for the firm, which was very confident of a win and had begun ramping up its UK support operation in preparation. The Thales win was not solely based on IFE though.
 

Birdie.jpg

BMI business is up for grabs. Will they follow BMed down the Thales route or Lufthansa to Panasonic?

 
More TOTALLY UNSUBSTANTIATED stuff:
 
A poster on airliners.net says: AA’s first MD-80 with GoGo inflight WiFi is now flying….The service is not yet activated as this is the test a/c for the MD-80.
 
In response to my questions about this, Aircell says: “As you no doubt understand, I can’t comment on that at this time. That being said, based on the 2008 recap release we issued this week, we are obviously planning for success in 2009.” .
 
GOOD READ:
 

WSJ’s travel blog, The Middle Seat Terminal, gives a think about In-flight Psychology. Interesting point from a Singapore Airlines spokesman:

“American passengers find it very uncomfortable culturally to press the flight attendant call button when they need something. So each of our cabin crew has been trained to make a specific number of passes through the cabin making eye contact with as many passengers as they can. This allows the staff to identify a passenger who needs something without requiring them to go through the uncomfortable step of pushing the button.”

I gotta admit, I’m not a big FA button-pressing fan myself. But that’s usually because the FA often appears with a “what the heck do you want” look on his/her face. What do I want? IFE&C of course! 

(Image of Blue Jay by Menke, Dave/USFWS)

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