Improvements to ground- and satellite-based communications infrastructure mean that airlines now can offer fast, reliable Wi-Fi to their customers almost anywhere on earth.
As a result, the market for connectivity modifications is booming, with Lufthansa Technik reporting up to 15% growth per year.
The German MRO provider estimates that roughly 1,200 aircraft per year will be retrofitted with passenger internet solutions, and that this will continue for the next five years.
Installation times can vary from three to 15 days, although Lufthansa Technik claims that only a handful of companies in the world can achieve the shortest times.
It also highlights constraints on hangar space for standalone connectivity modifications, although satellite communications provider Viasat and Inmarsat both insist that there are no MRO capacity-related bottlenecks to the roll-out of their services.
By the mid-2020s, most of the global fleet should offer connectivity, and the focus for MRO providers will switch to upgrading the systems of early adopters, and to catering for different use cases, such as connected airline systems and predictive maintenance.
At present, though, passenger internet is driving the market, with connectivity providers reporting that although they can see the potential for maintenance-related functions, a real business case is still to materialize.
“Where is the most benefit that you can actually get from sending operational data real time versus waiting until it gets to the gate,” says Kurt Weidemeyer, vice-president of Inmarsat Aviation, adding: “We can’t put a finger on those applications yet and a lot of airlines can’t either, but we know there’s a lot of opportunity – we just don’t know the specifics yet.”
To find out more about in-flight connectivity, see the forthcoming Inside MRO.