Skip to content

Posts from the ‘In-flight connectivity’ Category

In 2015, connectivity is about bandwidth

March 21st, 2015

Kinny Cheng

I’m curious about how high-level executives, at any relevant airline, can argue against the bases of what validates the general concept of in-flight connectivity.

In 2015.

Mary Kirby’s post, titled “Norwegian wants to move 737 health data over broadband”, was a generally-interesting read as far as discussing the airline’s intent and experience with their connectivity efforts was concerned.

But what was more interesting were the comments made by Norwegian’s head of business development, station and inflight solutions, Boris Bubresko.

…Boris Bubresko proclaimed that the airline is a “true believer in connectivity”, having already equipped 96% of its 737 fleet with Global Eagle’s Ku connectivity system.

That is an impressive number. Indeed, Norwegian was one of the earlier adopters of in-flight connectivity, where the airline began retrofitting their Boeing 737s with relevant hardware since 2011.

On the #PaxEx front, Norwegian on average sees “about 35-40%” take rates, and predictably higher usage on longer flights. The quality of this free service “depends on what passengers are doing on board. If everyone is doing emails; everybody is fine. If everybody is trying to download a movie; they all suffer,” admits Bubresko.

I’ve flown with Norwegian on several occasions, and I would always try to get online whenever the service was available. A general, non-systematic and -scientific head-count on most of my flights will agree to the 35-to-40% usage rates — mostly consisting users of smartphones, while lesser for tablets and laptops.

As it was free for everyone to use, the quality-of-service would always be questionable…

Thinking back to my most-positive usage experience, a passenger’s best bet would be to stick with apps that go easy on data consumption. Granted there can be a bit of wait time, which is an inherent issue with satellite-based Internet. Twitter, in most cases, would function reasonably well — but not so much for Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, which can hog the connection with endless picture-loading requests!

Hence, Bubresko’s example of a scenario where “everybody is trying to download a movie” would be virtually impossible, because it could never really happen (good luck trying to even get to the page that hosts the video!)

Norwegian is rumored to have only contracted for half a transponder’s worth of Ku capacity [read: not a lot] to cover its connectivity needs, leading to mixed results for passengers.

That figures. But let’s not forget about the free-for-all nature of the service, which lends Norwegian an excuse of not having to meet any (realistic) levels of in-flight broadband expectations (not as if they have made any efforts to established these!)

Almost all passengers in the world have been conditioned with the premise that the Internet isn’t usually available on planes. So, when you give it to them, for free, many would be happy that it’s there for the using — and expectations are non-existent because it’s both nice-to-have and, most importantly, zero-cost.

But Bubresko insists that the conversation should not be about bandwidth. Rather, he says, it’s about “are passengers able to do what they would like to do?”

How is the conversation not about bandwidth when we are talking about connectivity?

It’s easy to say “let’s install Wi-Fi on all our aircraft so that everyone gets to surf the Web when they fly with us!” But without consideration for the overall fleet’s capacity requirements, measures to control data use on a per-aircraft basis, and appropriate service expectations for passengers, asking that subsequent question becomes a truly futile and senseless act.

But if I was to say “I’d like to watch my Netflix”, then how is Bubresko going to respond?

Not about bandwidth? In another world, perhaps.

Hong Kong and Japan relaxes electronic use during take-off and landing

September 2nd, 2014

Kinny Cheng

Yesterday, Japan just eased restrictions on the use of electronics during the take-off and landing phase of the flight — via NewsOnJapan.com:

Japan on Monday relaxed a ban on the use of electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets in flight, following similar moves by the United States and the European Union.

From Monday, passengers were allowed to use a wide range of mobile electronic devices if they were switched to “flight mode” during the take-off and landing of newer planes, the transport ministry has said.

And from the 15th of this month (two Mondays from now), Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific and Dragonair will get the same privilege:

The ruling is slowly making its rounds.

Connectivity not-so-much…

February 26th, 2014

Kinny Cheng

Mary Kirby touches on in-flight connectivity:

Inflight connectivity provider OnAir’s services have become the subject of mounting complaints. Some passengers dislike the MB data packages sold by OnAir, and consider this pricing model to be outdated and inadequate for their data requirements (and they’ve made their discontent known on social media). But others have complained about not being able to connect to the network in-flight.

(Scroll down to the first comment in the above post for an official response from OnAir’s representative.)

In the air, I haven’t been online as much as I was a year ago (trying to get more offline work done!)

But I do concur that such problems have been plaguing the OnAir operators, including issues with connectivity and poor transfer speeds.

With those extravagant price tags, which vary across the different airlines, you’d be forgiven for being critical about the decision to go online — and even more so when the service’s reliability is in question.

Depending on which part of the world you’re from, expectations for in-flight connectivity can differ greatly. But ultimately, customers demand a high level of usability (or reliability) for the money they pay.

Variables, such as ping times and data (traffic) allowances, become irrelevant if a service provider can’t even get the basics right.

Inflight Wi-Fi: the low-down

May 3rd, 2013

Kinny Cheng

Susan Stellin, writing for The New York Times:

Travelers who want Wi-Fi in the air cannot always tell if a plane will have Internet service when they book their tickets. Prices for service are still evolving, and the quality of the connection does not come close to matching what most people are used to on the ground.

The questions regarding in-flight wireless Internet are many. This article addresses these, as well as pointing out various concerns relating to its availability, usability, and — specifically — the expectations regarding its overall performance.

The (after-)effects of an in-air tweetathon…

April 20th, 2013

Kinny Cheng

Tomas Romero’s take, via the APEX Editor’s Blog, on Panasonic Avionic’s global in-flight tweetathon:

As promised, Panasonic unveiled the world’s first global in-flight Tweetathon at the AIX 2013 Show in Hamburg yesterday afternoon and, by any standard, it was hugely successful. Titled High5Live, the event featured passengers on six different airplanes [t]weeting to their hearts content via Panasonic Avionics’ technology.

“By any standard”, although politically-correct, isn’t exactly a realistic assessment. Why? Because no one else has done anything of the like ever before… (and, hence, there is no real comparison.)

I was on-the-ground at this year’s AIX, an active participant of the #High5Live event, and had the chance to personally meet up with two of the people behind the Panasonic Avionics tweets at the show.

In my opinion, this unprecedented event was indeed interesting. However, I felt that while all the preparatory work may have been properly done, it lacked a significant-enough following during the course of the tweetathon.

Most of the different participants, flying different aircraft fitted with the Panasonic connectivity technology, did a great job at pushing relevant and interesting tweets out. But if there was only a slightly-greater following, I am sure there would’ve been a far-greater level of conversation.

The relationship between the number of people holding a conversation and the level of interaction simply can’t be measured with a straight-line approach. There are those qualitative factors, including behavioural and personality traits, that can affect this final outcome.

Also, Panasonic Avionics had provided the Twitter world with, regarding the tweetathon, too short a notice, and there didn’t seem to be enough noise made about it for the greater audience to realise such an impending event was approaching. As a very-frequent Twitter user myself, I almost forgot about the tweetathon until just before it began — which was also when the Panasonic Avionics account began pumping tweets with the #High5Live hashtag.

But at the end of the day, yesterday’s High5Live event was about demonstrating the true breadth of Panasonic’s coverage. “We have more OEM offerable systems, more SDC’s, more global coverage and more regulatory approvals than anybody else to do IFE,” says James. “Our customers operate globally and they want us to offer them a service anywhere they fly.”

I suppose it did. But it also seemed to have missed out on the opportunity of branding itself, clearly, as a leading provider of in-flight connectivity whatever on aeroplanes. Manufacturers are too obsessed with trying to please their direct customers, and not realising the potential of how end-users can breathe life into a brand or idea.

At the end of the day, this PR exercise simply proved that certain aircraft are indeed connected to the Internet whilst in-the-air — not something that many of us didn’t already know. It may raise awareness of how such on-board connectivity systems can be put into practical use. But that was pretty much it.

Will there be a second tweetathon?

If the answer is yes, then I hope more planning will go into making it a possibly-greater success — an event that’s about everyone, and not simply directed towards proving its potential as a concept or product.

%d bloggers like this: