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The inflight connectivity market is soaring. According to a 2014 report by leading international consulting and analyst firm Euroconsult, the market is expected to double over the next 10 years. The report, entitled “Prospects for In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity,” projects that passenger connectivity will grow to 12,900 commercial aircraft and 24,000 business aircraft, and reach $2.1 billion by 2023. Much of that growth is expected to take place in international markets.
Today, Hughes satellite technology and service delivery infrastructure powers one of the world’s leading inflight system integrators, Global Eagle Entertainment (formerly known as Row 44), providing broadband services on more than 550 aircraft in the U.S., Europe, Russia, and Africa. Global Eagle’s impressive list of airline customers— including Southwest Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Icelandair, Mango Airlines, and Russian- based carriers Transaero and UTair—is about to get bigger as the business is now poised to expand into Asia.
Recently, Hughes, in partnership with Global Eagle, signed a contract with Thaicom Public Company Limited (Thaicom), a leading satellite communications provider in Asia Pacific, to provide its in-flight connectivity solution across Thailand and Southeast Asia.
“The Hughes broadband satellite solution, in conjunction with the end-to-end services provided by Global Eagle Entertainment, is an ideal choice for us and our airline partners, as it enables state-of-the-art in-flight connectivity in real time and is one of the most proven solutions available today,” said Dr. Sakon Kittivatcharapong, senior vice president, Ground System Operations at Thaicom, PLC.
“Launching this service represents another significant milestone for Thaicom as we develop additional innovations and end-to-end solutions for more value-added services to our customers and bring economic benefits to our country,” added Dr. Kittivatcharapong. “This will also strengthen the capability of Thailand’s satellite systems to grow and stay competitive with other global players.”
In China, local service providers will employ the comprehensive Hughes- Global Eagle solution to provide regional inflight coverage. With a large and diverse geography, China is ideal for continent- wide satellite coverage and is expected to become a fast-growing inflight market.
“Asia is an attractive market for us,” said Aditya Chatterjee, chief technical officer at Global Eagle Entertainment. “Inflight connectivity is now considered almost as important as a second engine, with passengers and crew taking for granted that it will be there when they fly. It’s one of those things that the more available it becomes, the more uses are found for it.”
“Hughes has been an excellent partner to Global Eagle for our combined solutions around the world, including space segment, products, services on the ground, and other basic facilitators,” added Chatterjee.
“If you look at the projections for passenger traffic and airline growth on a region-by-region basis, Asia will certainly be one of the dominant regions going forward,” said Peter Pardee, vice presi- dent, Business Development at Hughes. “That makes it a very important market for inflight connectivity, which we expect to grow significantly in the coming years.”
Indeed, as passengers take off for the skies, chances are the inflight connectivity services they’ve come to rely on will be provided courtesy of Hughes and Global Eagle Entertainment—no matter where in the world their travels take them.