Cabin Connectivity: Thinking Outside the Box

By Peter Zeeb | VanAllen

The three most common questions we receive about replacement aircraft are: 1) how much?  2) how far?  And 3) does it have internet?  Needless to say, internet connectivity within aircraft is a standard expectation for passengers.  Staying productive and “connected” is paramount in today’s business environment.


However, this evolving and growing technology has introduced new challenges to aircraft owners.  From cost management to security, there are number of considerations. 

Cost management for international operators. International connectivity is materially more expensive than US-based connectivity.  International systems cost $400,000 to $800,000 for installation with data plans of $40,000/month or more.  This is primarily driven by the use of satellite-based systems to transmit the data.  Examples of this service include JetConnex, BBML, and Swift Broadband.  US-based systems, like Gogo Biz, use more economical ground-based systems.  Installation costs are around $140,000 and data plans of $10,000/month.  If you operate worldwide, consider installing both domestic and international systems.  Use the more economical system in the US and subscribe to a smaller international data plan.  You could potentially reduce your overall data plan subscriptions by $5,000 to $10,000 per month; making the payback period for the domestic system installation less than 2 years. 

Data Plan Cost Management. Similar to your cell phone data plan, your aircraft data plan and costs are based on usage.  Thus, managing your usage is important to avoid penalties or more expensive data plans.  

One way to manage your costs with streaming data is the use of AVODs (audio / video on demand). The consumer market place is trending away from physical media content (Blu-Ray discs and DVDs) and towards digital content. Manufacturers are offering integrated media servers that store digital content (movies, TV shows, audio files, etc.) these than can be streamed to both cabin displays and personal devices.  Another approach that is less integrated and easier to manage is having multiple tablets pre-loaded with various content available for the passengers.

Data Speed Management. Consider your incoming data as a pipeline with limited capacity.  As each user and device taps into the pipeline and depending on the size of your pipeline, your performance will begin to degrade.  Slower connection speeds are most common.  But let’s face it, not all passengers are created equal. You don’t want the CEO to be hindered on downloading an important document while another passenger checks their Facebook status.  To remedy this, you can establish different wifi addresses within the aircraft to make sure your VIP passengers have ample bandwidth and speeds. Each wifi address can be configured accordingly.  These plans can be customized and changed as often as you would like.

Streaming Live Content. Need to see the big game or watch important live news updates?  Installing a DirectTV system was the most common solution for large cabin aircraft.  However, DirectTV for business aircraft is being phased out in 2019. Currently, the best solutions for streaming live content are apps such as YouTube TV, Sling, Apple TV and others. Coupled with your aircraft wifi system, streaming onto your tablet will be no different than at home or the office. However, streaming on your bulkhead and side rail monitors may take some creative solutions depending on your aircraft. There are options available.

Cyber Security. As with any technology that is transmitting data, it is subject to security risks. You should work with your company’s IT department and your data provider to develop a robust cyber security solution. Some strategies include passenger education, monitoring services, data encryption and establishing geo-fences in known areas of the world.  Just because you are in a company aircraft, don’t let your guard down.

We expect the area of cabin connectivity to continue to evolve and grow in the coming years.  Keeping these strategies in mind and thinking outside the box will be necessary to keep your passengers effectively connected. 

Learn more about specific strategies for your operation and aircraft. Contact VanAllen today.

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