Avionics equipment manufacturers and in-flight entertainment and connectivity service providers announced a series of new partnerships and service offerings designed to enhance passengers' in-flight experience at this week's Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and International Flight Services Association (IFSA) Expo in Anaheim, Calif.
Gogo announced a new service, Gogo Ground to Orbit (GTO), a hybrid air-to-ground (ATG)/Ku-band satellite solution with projected in-flight download speeds of 60 megabits.
Virgin America is the launch customer for Gogo GTO, as the San Francisco-based carrier will begin using the system on its commercial aircraft in 2014.
The company expects FAA approval for the service next year.
"When we launched our in-flight Internet service five years ago, we were able to deliver 3.1 Mbps per aircraft through our Air to Ground network. About a year ago, we began rapidly deploying our next generation air-to-ground service that took peak speeds to 9.8 Mbps. GTO will now take peak speeds to more than 60 Mbps. That's a 20-fold increase from where we started," said Michael Small, CEO of Gogo.
The GTO network will use a Ku antenna developed for "receive-only functionality," allowing for much faster download speeds than the current two-way ATG option where transmission is more limited so that the connections do not interfere with other satellites. It also allows for the use of multiple satellites, avoiding the need to install a new antenna as more Ku satellite technologies become available, according to Gogo.
Among the other highlights:
-- Inmarsat and Thales signed an agreement under which Thales will be a marketing partner for Inmarsat's commercial in-flight connectivity solutions.
Under the agreement, Thales will use Inmarsat's Swiftbroadband and GX aviation as the primary and preferred satellite service for its TopSeries in-flight entertainment and connectivity system (IFEC), a cabin entertainment system which provides airlines with Internet connectivity, personal device connection and on-demand audio and video.
"The ultimate aim of this agreement is to achieve today in the airline market, what network operators and mobile phone manufacturers achieved a decade ago by making passengers and systems connected anytime, anywhere," said Dominique Giannoni, CEO of Thales' in-flight entertainment and connectivity unit.
-- Panasonic Avionics launched a new overhead in-flight entertainment system, eXO, featuring video, wireless in-flight entertainment and hybrid cabin class-specific systems.
The 4 MCU, single-server unit eXO system supports cabin-wide entertainment, allowing passengers to use their own personal electronic devices to connect with a singular in-flight portal, interact with other passengers and "enjoy second screen entertainment," according to Panasonic.
Panasonic has not yet announced a launch customer for the system, though the company said eXO is being developed in support of cabin systems for the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 MAX.
-- Rockwell Collins and Panasonic Avionics announced a new agreement to launch Voyager 3D, a new three-dimensional moving map application on touchscreen monitors.
Voyager 3D builds on Rockwell Collins' current Airshow Moving Map platform, integrating it with Panasonic's global broadband in-flight connectivity network. Passengers will be able to access live news, connecting gate information and social media networks.
The two companies did not announce a launch date for Voyager 3D.
-- SITA announced the pairing of its e-Aircraft Connectivity Services with Thales' GateSync, allowing Thales to deploy GateSync wireless ground connectivity service over SITA's satellite-based in-flight connectivity network.
GateSync is currently being trialled by LAN Airlines at Santiago Airport. The companies are collecting data from that trial to determine how to use the pairing to automate the labor-intensive process of retrieving and uploading large volumes of aircraft systems data across an entire commercial airline fleet.
Related: In-flight Connectivity News