Rumour, news and stuff (March 15)

I’m heading to Washington DC today to attend the Satellite 2010 expo, and to moderate a panel on in-flight voice and data connectivity tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to the session as we’ve got a great line-up of speakers.

However, before I put the pedal to the metal and high-tail it out of Lancaster, PA, I feel compelled to write a ‘Rumour, News and Stuff’ blog post because, quite simply, we’ve gone far too long without one! I’m leaving ‘Speculation’ out of the round-up for a change.

RUMOUR (which, by nature of its definition, is totally unsubstantiated)

michael-small.jpgThere may be more to the recent shake-up at Aircell than meets the eye (isn’t there always?) I’m being told that bankers were more than a little surprised that, during the management reshuffle, Ron Lemay was replaced as president and CEO by industry veteran Michael Small (pictured) instead of by executive vice-president, wireless service Tom Weigman.

In any case, Small is now allegedly tasked with getting things in gear for an initial public offering (IPO). I’m also being told that the $176 million raised by Aircell in a recent private placement of equity securities diluted the employee shares and employees are none too happy about this.

NEWS

Iridium is fielding increased interest from the likes of Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Qantas, FedEx and Continental Airlines (which has already fitted a batch of 737s with Iridium satellite phone systems). “If you think of [an airline] that has a fairly oceanic presence, Iridium is doing more and more penetration of that market, especially carriers with 757s now dedicated for overwater use that didn’t come off the assembly line 15 years ago with satcom communications. They need it because the aircraft weren’t inherently delivered with them,” says a source. The immediate concern and desire is to have very reliable high-quality cockpit voice. A lot of airlines are using HF and they’d rather not use it as the quality is pretty poor. Iridium is less costly than the competition. “It is literally 50% to 60% cheaper with equipment and installation ranging from $30,000 to $35,000 per aircraft,” claims the source. In light of this, Airbus and Boeing have programmes underway to see if Iridium should somehow play a role in new-build types.

Panasonic award.JPGPanasonic Avionics has been selected as a Mercury Award winner at the International Travel Catering Association (ITCA) 2010 conference in Cologne, Germany.  Panasonic was chosen in the Inspirations category for FlightPath, a conceptual interactive platform designed to engage passengers and drive the onboard food and beverage experience (I had a chance to check out FlightPath last year at the WAEA conference and expo in Palm Springs, and it was AMAZING).

Key par from the press statement:


FlightPath works with the aircraft’s IFEC system to offer an event-driven, content-rich seatback environment, where the passenger’s meal and beverage options are personalized, and presented within a visual in-flight timeline to the destination. Within FlightPath, passengers can take advantage of targeted advertising and shopping opportunities, either for in-flight, home, or at-gate delivery. In addition, passengers can engage with crew members, friends, and family using FlightPath’s communication applications, for food pairing recommendations or even a virtual wine tasting event. The passenger’s interactive experience can be further extended to include tourist information, virtual shopping centers or even booking restaurant reservations all from 40,000 feet. FlightPath seamlessly integrates with applications to provide airlines a complete food, beverage and entertainment solution. 

India’s state owned civil aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is reportedly exploring the possibility of allowing mobile phones on aircraft. A 2000 Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) currently prevents the in-flight use of mobile phones.

Hawaiian Airlines’ decision to expand its fleet with a 10th new Airbus A330 is good news for Panasonic Avionics, which has a deal to supply its eX2 in-flight entertainment system in every seat of the carrier’s A330s (passengers in first class will also be able to use Panasonic’s iPod connectivity solution). The first three A330s to join Hawaiian’s fleet are scheduled to arrive in April, May and November of this year. But Hawaiian also has firm orders with Airbus for six A350 XWBs. Panasonic would seem well-placed to secure the IFE business on these birds also.

ASiQ expects to announce the first installation of “the world’s first aircraft Bluetooth access point” in the second quarter. ASiQ CEO Ron Chapman says: “Up until now passengers have only had very expensive options for in flight mobile phone communications however, with the evolution of our SafeCell App, combined with our new Bluetooth Access Point, airlines will now be able to offer their passengers affordable SMS, MMS, voice messaging and text email on the popular device of choice, the mobile phone. Better still SafeCell eliminates GSM roaming charges, as it does not require a GSM Picocell connection to deliver its services.”

TriaGnoSys has launched Network Crossing via Translation (NeXT), calling it the “first cost effective solution for transporting IPv6 data over IPv4 satellite links, future proofing next generation aircraft communication services, including air traffic control applications”.

digEcor L7.JPGPortable IFE specialist digEcor has secured a European launch customer for its next generation L7 handheld, and the company has even given me a peek at the device’s very first photo shoot. Sexy!

STUFF

Some passengers are starting to realize just what a nuisance it is not to be able to make in-flight Skype calls on aircraft fitted with Wi-Fi. But that nuisance was elevated to another level when one passenger was informed by a United Airlines flight attendant that terrorism concerns are the reason why such calls are prohibited! Boing Boing asks the question: “Is in-flight video chat in the US legal?” The answer is that most airlines currently prohibit in-flight Skype calls but there is currently nothing in the federal rules to prevent such calls, that is unless the Hang-Up Act is enacted.

A new mobile app, called Uppward, could make flying a heck of a lot more social. Add your flights on Uppward and discover who else will be flying with you!

Uppward.JPG



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One Response to Rumour, news and stuff (March 15)

  1. alloycowboy March 16, 2010 at 6:54 am #

    Mary,

    Have you been hearing much about USB 3 compatibility? USB 3 devices are now nearing production and I am sure everyone is going to want to be able plug them in during flight.

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