Bruce Jackson, the president and MD of US-based connectivity specialist Air Informatics, believes that airline WiFi connectivity is facing two to three years of volatility.
Speaking at MRO Europe in Amsterdam on Oct. 17, Jackson said the falling cost of bandwidth could offer a “path to profitability” for airline WiFi suppliers, but the next few years will be “highly volatile” as connectivity providers merge and acquire one another, new technologies come online, and data privacy and cyber-security concerns rise up the agenda.
“It’s a very challenging world right now, on a lot of levels. There is a lot of uncertainty that is going to play out over the next two to three years. Money has flowed into the market and people will want to see a return on their investment. If not, they will want to see an exit,” he said.
If the “wild” predictions about WiFi take-up are correct – and Jackson doubts their validity – service levels could also be set to go downhill. He likened the WiFi connection to a highway, where the passenger devices are like cars.
“You’ve got to understand how big that road is,” he said, adding that it is possible to check the connection speed of each individual passenger device connected to the aircraft network. This can then be compared to the performance metrics in the WiFi supplier’s contract.
“What I think is interesting is the change in where the power lies,” he said. With so many options available on the market, airlines can push for shorter contracts, with less lock-in, and service guarantees that hold the suppliers accountable.
Meanwhile, cyber threats and data-privacy concerns are becoming more real and Jackson said that vulnerabilities do exist, particularly in older systems.