Thales unveiled its TopConnect integrated connectivity/IFE offering here yesterday and said that two of its airline customers had already opted for the solution.
Based on the Inmarsat SwiftBroadband 432kbit/sec satellite service, TopConnect adds Internet access, email and text messaging functions to the company’s successful TopSeries AVOD inflight entertainment system. It can also allow passengers to use their own wireless-enabled laptops and other devices for connectivity, and will deliver a combination of cached and live news and other content.
TopConnect has been developed by Thales in partnership with Airbus/SITA connectivity service provider OnAir and communications hardware manufacturer Airbus-KID Systeme. OnAir will act as global service provider for TopConnect, with KID contributing system elements.
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Aircraft hardware comprises Thales’ TopFlight Inmarsat terminal, a dedicated connectivity server, and WiFi and GSM/GPRS networks. Software applications such as the news portals can be hosted on the TopSeries IFE server.
“We expect more passengers to want to access the service through their seatback screens than with personal devices,” Alan Pellegrini, general manager of Thales’ IFE business,” said yesterday. “So we felt it was a very important to integrate it with the IFE.”
Passengers will see three primary applications – an airline-customised intranet portal offering cached information that is regularly updated live via the satellite link, Thales’ own text messaging function, and the Webchat and Webmail capabilities already developed by OnAir. “The use of SwiftBroadband for the air-to-ground link will dramatically cut the cost to passengers of text messaging, to as much as a tenth of current levels,” said Pellegrini.
The emergence of TopConnect is the second major connectivity development this week – on Monday Thales rival Panasonic and partner AeroMobile announced that their comparable eXphone offering would enter service before the end of the year with long-haul airline V Australia.
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