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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

OnAir CEO Expects 2013 to Be Big Year in Connectivity

Mark Holmes

Passenger connects onboard Emirates'
A380 via OnAir airborne connectivity system.
OnAir, a key service provider in the in-flight connectivity arena, is hoping for a banner year in 2013. Ian Dawkins, CEO, OnAir told In-Flight Connectivity Insider 2013 will be the year when in-flight connectivity becomes part of the mainstream for airline and business aviation passengers alike.

“Airlines are starting to roll out these services across their fleet. This year, it will become an entirely natural dynamic to people that if they travel, they can connect to the Internet. That will become a reality around the world in 2013. This will be a trend," Dawkins said.

"I think the other trend to look out for in 2013 is the move towards GSM services. Because of the explosion of smart phones, you will just be able to connect when you are on the ground. The market is growing very quickly. At the moment, only 20 percent of the world’s aircraft have signed up to connectivity today. Only a very small percentage have got connectivity up and working today,” he said.

OnAir, which counts Emirates Airlines, Singapore Airlines and TAM Airlines among its client, offers its services across a number of different platforms via SwiftBroadband. It works with Thales, for example, and had done a number of deals with them, as well as offering systems on Airbus aircraft.

“We are very agnostic in terms of what we want to do. It is part of our strategy. Everyone talks about how big the pie is. But, you hear less about managing that service. We have done it. Airlines are becoming more aware of the operational side. We are looking at developing a number of applications that will enhance the operational side of the business, and I do see that side of the business. Airlines are going to look at how they can best optimize the passenger service, as well as optimize the operations of the aircraft. We can provide the infrastructure to allow these applications into the aircraft,” says Dawkins.

Additionally, OnAir in September signed an official contract with Inmarsat finalizing the appointment of OnAir as the first Aviation Distribution Partner for Global Xpress (GX) Ka-band network. In preparation for the introduction of Global Xpress, OnAir has already started to secure customers for the launch of the satellite service.

While the company has done a number of high-profile deals in the commercial arena, the company also hopes to make more of an impact in the business aviation market. In December, OnAir announced that its inflight connectivity system is now a linefit option for buyers of Dassault’s Falcon 7X. The first Mobile OnAir and Internet OnAir equipped Falcon 7X will be available for delivery in 2014 and owners may linefit either or both services.

“From a business aviation market perspective, we have a very strong foothold in the higher end of the market. We cover a very broad segment. We are entering into just below that market now with GSM services. We are putting the emphasis on this market on GSM. More and more people are starting to realize the value of GSM,” says Dawkins. “That market will start to go through the change. That will be driven by small lightweight GSM equipment. We have worked with a company to develop that equipment and put it on board. It will be a requirement of all of the commercial airlines to have connectivity. We are about to put out an announcement on the next level of business jets with GSM services. They want to use this as a differentiator in the market as well. This market is starting to change. We are not really in the smaller end of the business jet market.”

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