APEX Insight: After winning this year’s Future Travel Experience & JetBlue Technology Ventures Startup Competition for its RebelRocket Wi-Fi optimization solution, RebelRoam is now in talks with airlines and in-flight connectivity providers about beginning official trials.
The RebelRocket solution has been designed by RebelRoam to reduce the bandwidth usage of data-heavy video streaming applications by up to 50%. The Estonia-based company achieves this by using proprietary Per Flow Queue (PFQ) technology and TCP acceleration.
Co-founder of RebelRoam Henri Ploom explains that its PFQ traffic pacing algorithm is able to look into the traffic flow to determine what kind of traffic is being accessed by passengers and then optimize this traffic according to the settings the company has decided work best.
“This does two things,” says Ploom. “It is slowing down the traffic flow so more concurrent users can use the Wi-Fi simultaneously, but if we’re talking about video streaming, then it also automatically reduces the video quality to a preset level, for example standard definition or high definition instead of traffic-heavy full HD.”
TCP acceleration works by modifying the universal traffic congestion control algorithm for wireless connections (cellular and satellite), which are notorious for higher latency. “This enables videos and music to start instantly and to play without buffering,” explains Ploom.
RebelRoam has also developed a DNS-based redirection method to redirect traffic through its optimization proxy servers in the cloud. Ploom says, “It takes literally only one minute to configure and start using.”
The company is also benefiting from a parallel trend whereby content providers are creating and deploying more efficient data transfer protocols or algorithms. “For example, AV1, which was launched at the end of March, is a new video encoding algorithm which is up to 25% more bandwidth efficient. There is going to be more bandwidth available via satellite or air to ground networks and those band-width heavy services are capable of utilizing that bandwidth more efficiently,” he says.
“When there is 10 times more bandwidth, people will be using 10 times more traffic heavy content,” – Henri Ploom, RebelRoam
However, Ploom is concerned the industry is fulfilling the “Laws of Future and Technology” laid out by Finnish academic Osmo A. Wiio in the 1970s. Wiio argued that “the near future is overestimated,” while the “the far future is underestimated.”
“Wiio says people tend to think about future technologies in current terms, so for example, ‘What if I had 10 times more bandwidth?’ What they don’t consider is that when there is 10 times more bandwidth, people will be using 10 times more traffic heavy content,” Ploom explains.
“They said 4G and LTE would change the world 10 years ago. It did, but iPhones were invented around the same time and people’s demands changed too,” – Henri Ploom, RebelRoam
“The industry is talking so much about high-throughput satellites and 5G. There is a near-term overestimation that these technologies will be abundant and will solve our problems forever,” he continues. “They said 4G and LTE would change the world 10 years ago. It did, but iPhones were invented around the same time and people’s demands changed too.”
Ploom also highlights that the rollout of high-throughput technologies have been much slower than expected, and that it will be at least another eight to 10 years before all airlines start making use of that technology, which is why data optimization is an essential part of an airline’s in-flight Wi-Fi strategy.