WAEA focuses on connectivity as airline interest soars

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Recognizing the growing appetite for in-flight connectivity worldwide, the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) this month will hold a single focus workshop to help senior airline executives understand the market and make informed decisions.

The event, to be held on 14-15 July at the Future of Flight Aviation Centre in Washington, comes on the heels of a new Airline Business/SITA study that finds some 68% of airlines plan to invest in IP broadband connectivity both to and from aircraft over the next three years.

"This is such a hot topic. Typically [the WAEA] would have had another technology committee hearing mid-year in the June timeframe, but when we looked at all the topics and realized connectivity was head and shoulders beyond all the other topics, we steered towards a single focus workshop," says Lumexis chief technical officer Rich Salter, who co-chairs the WAEA's technology committee.

Another co-chair of the committee Inmarsat aeronautical business director David Coiley notes that the choices in connectivity and the issues now faced by carriers have multiplied since the days of Verizon Airfone and Connexion by Boeing.

"It seems absolutely relevant to do this right now notwithstanding the economic situation, and clearly there are huge numbers of airlines doing things right now [in connectivity] and they certainly want to be prepared to hit the ground running."

One of the sessions to be chaired by Coiley will address the difference between the different "pipes" to the aircraft - air-to-ground (ATG) as offered by Aircell in North America; Ku-band satellite through Row 44 and Panasonic Avionics, for example; and L-band satellite via Inmarsat.

Says Coiley: "We want to debunk and demystify some of the more fundamental issues."