ANALYSIS: Thales looks to drive industry change with GateSync

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Thales is looking to spearhead a sea change in the industry with the deployment of a groundbreaking WiMax/GSM/Wi-Fi gate data transfer mechanism that will allow airlines to update in-flight entertainment (IFE) content on the same day it is released.

The company worked with partners Proximetry and CSC to develop the so-called GateSync product, and is "at the point now where we're showing first production versions of equipment and softare" said Stuart Dunleavy, vice president of marketing and consumer propositions for Thales' IFE and connectivity sector.

Proximetry specialises in frequency management and data transfer algorithms. CSC is a $20 billion dollar computer software security and consulting firm, which is going to deploy the networks and server infrastructure on the ground.

"There is an algorithm which says how many aircraft [can be supported and at] what distance from the antenna. We're saying for 50 aircraft, you can have about a 4 gigabyte per hour committed throughput, less aircraft [would permit] more throughput," said Dunleavy.

The solution will allow airlines to quickly refresh content - be it movies, short-subject or time-sensitive programming - to both make it more appealing and increase advertising revenue.

Dunleavy explained: "What we're trying to drive is a change in the industry model where instead of doing just the bulk 30-day massive content load, we're moving to a model that is more iterative more time-sensitive, more recent, more frequent, and it's a lot more appealing to the passenger. So it's going to take a change in mindset but if we wanted to use a two- to three-hour aircraft turn, or an hour aircraft turn, and do content updates every day, the GateSync system will support those bursts of data. So a movie comes out on the 14th of the month, you make it available on the 15th, instead of waiting until the next month's cycle."

The introduction of GateSync also comes at a time when some studios are considering releasing movies all at once instead of adhering to various windows of release, as they do now.

GateSync is a standalone product "in the sense that it can be added to an aircraft independently" or purchased as part of larger order for Thales' IFE and connectivity solutions, which includes a new streaming video offering, said Dunleavy. "When you start adding other elements of the TopSeries AVANT [Android-based IFE] system and the Thales family of products, GateSync starts getting more and more valuable. A clear bundle would be wireless content distribution in the cabin with GateSync or AVANT, with GateSync."