The Seamless Air Alliance, a nonprofit group of 30 companies, is looking to improve airline in-flight WiFi services. The group is developing a new tech architecture by introducing a global standard, using protocols derived from cellular and WiFi industries.
Bloomberg reports that the alliance includes members such as Airbus SE, Delta Air Lines Inc., as well as Panasonic Avionics, Intelsat SA, Nokia Oyj and Vodafone Group Plc. Seamless Air Alliance aims to make in-flight connectivity systems modular, with open interfaces and components that can easily be swapped out.
The alliance’s chief executive officer Jack Mandala predicts that universal adoption of the new framework could attract existing and new internet companies. He adds that this will boost competition and quality for inflight connectivity, where currently airlines have equipment that only works with the provider that they’ve chosen.
If this new architecture rolls out, travellers would be greeted by an entirely different airport experience. Mobile connections would be able to migrate from one system to another, from the airport terminal to their respective in-flight seats – without the need to log in or pay.
Furthermore, the alliance aims to utilise advances in satellite technology. This would allow in-flight internet access to have low latency, higher speeds and be continuously available throughout the entire flight, even over polar routes.
The group claims that these new protocols might also save airlines billions of dollars, and thus allowing for “rapid adoption of new technologies in a surgical manner.” However, in order to make this a reality, several key industry players such as Boeing Co. as well as major cellular and internet service providers should be involved first.
Mandala is certain that it’s only a matter of time before the industry agrees around standards that lower costs for airlines.
Even if this new global standard flies off (no pun intended), it will probably take a while for Malaysian airliners and mobile service providers to adopt it. Currently, Malaysia Airlines is only offering paid in-flight internet services via MHConnect exclusively on Airbus A350 flights, while AirAsia is offering its paid WiFi on selected domestic and international flights.