Connectivity in-flight: A differentiator for passengers

by Staff Reporter | August 26th, 2012

Allan Pellegrini, CEO, Thales IFEC

In-flight Entertainment and Connectivity Systems (IFEC) play a crucial role in a passenger’s decision making process when choosing which airline to fly with – a trend that inspired the setting up of the  Thales QSTP-LLC technical laboratory, says Alan Pellegrini, CEO Thales IFEC, in conversation with SatellitePro ME.

Thales and Qatar Airways have jointly established a technology research, development and training centre at the Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP).

Under the official name, Thales QSTP-LLC, this technical laboratory currently houses IFEC equipment that reportedly supports software and application prototyping, content integration, system level testing and training.

Addressing guests at the official opening, Qatar Airways chief executive officer, Akbar Al Baker said “IFE today plays a crucial role in a passenger’s decision making process when choosing which airline to fly with. 15 years ago, IFE played a very small part of an airline’s product offering”.

Speaking to SatellitePro ME, Alan Pellegrini, CEO Thales In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity Systems, states that the laboratory situated in Doha has the advantage of “localisation [that] promotes greater efficiency in our ability to aggregate, compile and deliver content updates. We have an established capability to perform such procedures and will continue to evolve the overall process through new content integration tools that further automate content updating.”

The objective of the centre is to further develop in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) solutions for Qatar’s national carrier – how will the centre achieve that?

The centre focuses on content and media integration. We are working with Qatar Airways on integrating both globally popular and regionally interesting content through on-line collaboration tools and local personnel in Doha.

This combination of technology and dedicated local resources allows us to most efficiently aggregate and format suitable content for the Thales IFEC system.

Application development

We are focused on both crew and passenger capabilities and developing some of those capabilities locally in Doha. Local presence allows us to better engage with Qatar’s marketing and operations departments who play key roles in defining the features of a given application.

Test racks

We have installed test racks for each of Qatar Airways aircraft configuration in order to test content integration and new applications prior to in-service use.

What are the IFEC solutions that you have already created for Qatar airways?

“Qatar Airways selected Thales IFEC for its fleet of single aisle Airbus aircraft which is flying today with a comprehensive selection of entertainment choices. Passengers have access to a wide range of on-demand content, map display, games the first aircraft to install the Thales Touch Passenger Media Unit, a touch screen handheld device that enables passengers to multitask.

This product was developed by Thales and Qatar Airways and is revolutionary. Qatar Airways will be the first airline to fly with our latest system, TopSeries Avant, an Android-based system with high capacity servers and seat-centric local content storage for superior reliability.

The aircraft will all have the Thales System on-board. This is a very large fleet of aircraft that will feature Thales TopConnect solution, a standalone connectivity platform that can be integrated with Thales’ TopSeries system. TopConnect will provide fully certified satellite communications for communications, the configuration will be upgradeable to Ka-band services.

What do you believe are the coming trends in IFEC?

Ka-band connectivity

On the horizon is the Ka-band satellite service which is slated to deliver connectivity at lower cost with greater bandwidth. Thales is very focused on this service and we find it attractive given its global reach.

On-board wireless streaming media

As consumer mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, increase in popularity, so comes the opportunity to marry them with the embedded IFE system for enhanced passenger enjoyment and loyalty to an airline.

Thales offers a system called TopSeries AVA, a turnkey solution for airlines of any size.

Services

Aircraft delivery forecasts are strong which means as more aircraft fly, the need for services increases. Automating service procedures, expanding repair and support networks, and ensuring the availability of call-centre support, are part of our continuous development plans in the area of service.

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