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APEX: Airlines line up for television as faster speeds emerge

Connectivity providers are differentiating their streaming video offerings for personal devices, and streaming online content from an onboard server rather than through a satellite link is proving to be an effective way to offer passengers content without requiring a super-fast satellite connection.

However, connectivity providers are split on whether the market will demand live television with multiple channels as it becomes more widely available, or if on-demand videos will make sense even as the ability to stream content at a faster rate presents itself.

Gogo announced a deal at APEX with Delta to offer its Gogo Vision service on more than 950 aircraft, bringing the Illinois-based connectivity provider's total number of aircraft committed to the service to more than 1,400. The airline will start retrofitting its domestic fleet with the service this year and will finish installations in 2013. Its international fleet, which will be the first aircraft to receive Gogo's new Ku-band service offering, will be completed by 2015.

The Gogo Vision product streams from a server on board the aircraft, so a super-fast satellite data link is not required to deliver the content to passengers. However, Delta also decided to improve its connectivity offering by upgrading to Gogo's ATG-4 connectivity, which increases peak speeds of the service from 3.1mbps to 9.8mbps.

Inmarsat also announced at the show that it would take the approach of providing a connectivity service that streams from an onboard server through its SwiftBroadband network, called SBTV. OnAir solidified the contract to be an official distribution partner for its Global Xpress Ka-band connectivity service, which is slated to be globally available to commercial airlines from the first quarter of 2015.

OnAir has been testing the SwiftBroadband-based on-demand video service on an airline already, and expects it to hit the market by early 2013. Chief executive Ian Dawkins says it will have the capability to offer live television when the Inmarsat Ka-band network is up and running, but he says that it is still unclear whether there will be a trend of customers wanting to retain the on-demand product or move to a channel-based live television system.

Lufthansa Systems specialises in providing on-demand video through a server that passengers can access through their own personal devices with its BoardConnect system. However, the company says that Ka-band satellite systems will pose an opportunity to add a live television service onto the offering through a partner. This would likely be achieved first with an embedded seatback in-flight entertainment solution, which is another option the company provides.

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