Global Eagle’s stand at the 2018 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg. Image: Maxim Sergieko

APEX Insight: Global Eagle currently has 220 airline customers using its content services, up from 200 at the end of 2017. But the launch of its new Airconnect Go wireless IFE system signals the company’s desire to be even more broadly available across the aviation market.

Global Eagle has created a new portable on-demand wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE) system, Airconnect Go, by combining its content and Airtime Portal software with hardware from Astronics. Mike Pigott, the company’s VP Connectivity Products and Solutions, claims this synthesis of expertise will provide a “superior experience” for the solution’s target market, which includes smaller regional airlines, low-cost carriers and charter companies using leased aircraft.

“Airconnect Go is an expansion in terms of the breadth of hardware that we offer,” explained Pigott. “On the highest end, we offer full connectivity systems. As a subset of that, we offer a premium wireless IFE system that is immediately upgradeable to full-scale connectivity. Now we’re offering a lower cost product with Airconnect Go. The message here is that we’re trying to serve as many airline customers as we can with the right piece of hardware, which is then connected to all our backend services.”

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Weighing in at 3.3 kg each, one Airconnect Go box will have the ability to stream to 50 people, which means two will be required to cater to all passengers on a Boeing 737, for example. According to Pigott, the box has charging circuitry on board and can be plugged into a standard aircraft power outlet.

Pigott also highlighted that in a first for Global Eagle, Airconnect Go will be entirely subscription-based. He confirmed there will be three tiers available – Bronze, Silver and Gold – on a per aircraft basis, “to keep things as simple as possible.” Acknowledging the trend toward local IFE content, the packages will be regional and will differ in terms of the type and volume of content – features which are currently being discussed and refined with interested parties.

Airconnect Go

Global Eagle’s new wireless IFE system Airconnect Go has approximately 15 hours of battery life. Image: Stephanie Taylor

While Global Eagle’s Airtime Portal is fully customizable, Pigott said personal airline branding won’t be an option in any of the Airconnect Go subscription packages, as the focus is on ease of employment. He stated, “Customers can rapidly receive our services while we’re doing our work to get full wireless IFE on board.” However, Pigott also divulged that the solution will offer “mini-premium” options, whereby customers can subscribe to a content package and then select some additional local content.

Airconnect Go is currently in the final software development stage, with launch customers due to be announced in late Q3/early Q4 of this year. Moving forward, Pigott said, “We are probably not going to get into embedded seats or compete with Thales and Panasonic, but you’ll see us expanding into more wireless IFE products. We’re also exploring alternative wireless IFE systems that can bridge the gap between our fully portable and premium experiences.”

Global Eagle has also announced it has won a contract to provide Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways with IFE and content services across its 250+ aircraft for the next three years. Michael Miller, Global Eagle’s VP Communications and Marketing, hinted there are more announcements due in the next few weeks.