Taqnia Space held a press conference on April 11, announcing Saudia as the launch customer of UON. Image: Valerie Silva

APEX Insight: Taqnia Space has launched an in-flight entertainment and connectivity service, called UON, ushering in a new era of live streaming directly to passenger’s devices.

Saudi Arabian Airlines will be the launch customer of Taqnia Space’s new in-flight entertainment and connectivity service, UON, launched yesterday at Aircraft Interiors Expo. UON offers broadband Ku- and Ka-band in-flight connectivity, GSM voice and data roaming, and live TV – all accessible through passengers’ personal electronic devices. Taqnia’s service is the result of a collaboration between satellite operator Eutelsat, Japanese aerospace designer Jamco, satellite technology provider iDirect, software provider Axinom and connected solutions provider SITAONAIR.

The company’s CEO, Abdullah Alosaimi, said the system, slated to launch in Q2 of next year on Saudia short- and long-haul flights, means “all airlines around the world will be able to offer their passengers high-throughput connectivity services that are currently provided in a limited scale by few airlines in North America.”

Speaking of the achievement, David Lavorel, CEO of SITAONAIR, which is collaborating in the capacity of technology consultant and provider, said, “What Taqnia has been doing in terms of speed is just amazing. Enabling your first service [within a year] is quite a tough delivery. At this stage, we are focusing on bringing the service live.”

“What Taqnia has been doing in terms of speed is just amazing. Enabling your first service in a one-year basis is quite a tough delivery.” — David Lavorel, SITAONAIR

Going forward, SITAONAIR will be responsible for supporting the ongoing management of services and infrastructure involved in the delivery of UON. In addition to integrating live TV into the UON portal, SITAONAIR is guiding the development of Taqnia Space’s 3.5G in-flight mobile service. “They wanted the traditional Wi-Fi service, but were also convinced that for their market it would be important to do GSM, and, at the time [last year] we were just launching our next-generation mobile 3.5G service, so we are in the process of enabling that for Taqnia also,” Lavorel added.

For its part, Axinom developed the software and smart traffic management technology needed to optimize satellite bandwidth consumption for live streaming to passenger devices. “It’s an open system that can be integrated. It is not bundled or boxed,” said Ralph Wagner, CEO, Axinom. “The point is not to create another silo.”

Also in attendance at yesterday’s press conference was Azman Ahmad, GM Product Management for Saudia, who confirmed the airline’s eagerness to bring this service on board as soon as possible. “Sometimes people think that when you are launching a product it is just a teaser. This is not one,” he said. “We’ve actually got the aircraft ready and will be doing some trials and tests soon.”