OPINION: In-Flight Connectivity Trends to Watch For in 2023

By David Helfgott | February 22, 2023
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According to David Helfgott, the CEO of SmartSky Networks, in-flight connectivity in 2023 is focused on enhancing the passenger experience beyond current capabilities. (Photo: SmartSky)

This article is contributed by David Helfgott, CEO of SmartSky Networks.

The in-flight connectivity landscape in 2023

The in-flight connectivity sector overcame significant milestones in 2022—with both Air-to-Ground (ATG) and satellite technologies seeing connectivity increasingly becoming a commodity for passengers. However, the distinctiveness of their capabilities means they are anything but a commodity. Many travelers want a reliable in-flight network as part of the experience and have shifted their focus from “Will there be Wi-Fi onboard?” to “What Wi-Fi will my flight provide?” Today’s passengers require strong connectivity for a wide range of online activities, from uploading work documents to sharing content on social media. Plus, reliable inflight Wi-Fi only serves to increase passenger satisfaction and retention.

As connectivity continues to develop, we will see passengers actively seeking flights that promise the most reliable network and deliver based on their personal experiences. Wi-Fi quality has a big role to play for passengers and also for improving situational awareness and optimizing aircraft operations—something we will see become a higher priority throughout 2023.

Developments in available technology: How to remain competitive

As many network providers adapt and upgrade their technology to elevate performance, aircraft operators have a variety of choices, with differing capabilities, for accessing reliable in-flight data. We may also see this competitiveness reflected in pricing, with many providers introducing discounts to lock in potential customers. Additionally, with many operators seeing the advantages of combining satellite and ATG, we believe hybrid installations will be a more common feature in 2023, catering to operators making both domestic and international flights.

As interest increases in bleeding-edge satellite technology, we expect more offerings by LEO and GEO satellite providers. With such variety available and upcoming, customers are faced with confusing options to decipher and will need to be educated about the specific network(s) that will best suit their operation and aircraft mission, alongside budget and other factors.

Connectivity beyond the cabin

This year, there will also be more emphasis placed on how connectivity can be used in-flight to optimize an aircraft’s overall operations and coordination of cockpit and flight operations. We expect more applications utilizing Aviation Data-as-a-Service (ADaaS), bridging the gap in communication between those in the air and those on the ground. ADaaS is a holistic term that encompasses the breadth of cloud-based software tools that work together to aggregate, process, and apply aviation data to give all users more insight about the safety, performance, and comfort of each flight, while improving efficiency, analytics, and capability.

An example is SmartSky’s Skytelligence, a neutral platform that provides access to essential aviation data from numerous sources via a data exchange for application developers and others in the industry to create new ways to streamline and optimize aviation operations. One Skytelligence-supported offering is SmoothSky, in partnership with IATA, which aggregates a variety of data sources to deliver real-time turbulence information, allowing pilots to adjust flight paths to improve safety and comfort and protect aircraft from turbulence-related damage.

There is significant potential in the power of ADaaS to benefit aviation. 2023 is a pivotal year for these technologies to shape how better knowledge of data can drive meaningful growth and enhanced services to transform the industry.

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