Tuesday, 5 February 2008

That's Entertainment: In-flight Connectivity's Top Dogs Don't Mess Around

Put AeroMobile, EMS SATCOM, JetBlue Airways, Inmarsat, OnAir and the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) in one room and what do you get? A helping of in-flight connectivity insight (and a dash of disagreement)! During a National Press Club briefing hosted by ever-more-visible player EMS this morning, some of the top dogs of the industry chatted about everything from satellite launches in Kazakhstan (Inmarsat) and near-term certifications (AeroMobile) to broadband considerations (JetBlue) and US regulatory impediments concerning in-flight cell phone usage.

A key moment came when OnAir CEO Benoit Debains claimed that the Airbus/SITA joint venture is “the only company able to provide Blackberry service onboard aircraft”. Needless to say AeroMobile director, marketing and strategic relations David Coiley had a few thoughts about that.

I’ve love to get into all the juicy details right now, but I’m on deadline with a few stories from the event (and it’s nearing bedtime in the Kirby household, which now includes an over-fed cat and a miniature poodle who has yet to learn not to do her business on my living room floor).

Before I go, however, let me leave you with some advice from EMS SATCOM vice president and general manager Gary Hebb, who was in attendance at today’s conference. In terms of in-flight entertainment and connectivity:

1) Don’t believe any dates – they’re never true.

2) Don’t believe any bandwidth claims. They might be true sometimes but not often enough to make a difference.

3) There are trials and there are “trials”. Some trials are to prove the technology. They might have stuff from Best Buy held together with duct tape. The trials with Air France and Qantas are much more advanced. They're testing passenger reaction and business models.

4) One has to be very smooth to get money out of passengers.

(Photo of Hebb above left)

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