Inflight catering giant prepares wireless IFE solution for airlines

Rotation

How do small inflight wireless IFE providers gain critical mass, and ultimately real traction to compete against the big dogs? Team up…naturally.

In June RGN reported that a new IFE streaming system was set to launch fleet-wide with SunExpress Airlines, a JV between Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa. A few months later however, a source suggested that roll-out had not commenced and the ‘server-plus-WAPs’ solution was plagued with delays due to difficulties obtaining the supplemental type certificate (STC) required for galley-area installation (through the removal of an oven).

Recently the same suggestion was made to us by another industry insider, so we sought out comment from the system’s developers, Media in Motion (MiM), a tech-firm operating under the RiM (Retail in Motion) umbrella of services, of which catering giant LSG Sky Chefs is a minority stakeholder.

A lot has changed in the seven months since we last spoke to this firm. We were surprised to find that Martin Cunnison, co-founder of Mezzo IFE and owner of IFE streaming solution AeroFi (recently launched with first airline customer Monarch) returned our call. It seems Retail in Motion and AeroFi have become close. Very close.

“We (myself and Joe Elias as 100% owners of AeroFi and MiM respectively) are in the process of joining our two highly complementary businesses; the people, the tech, contracts, routes to market etc. We are formalizing that relationship and will emerge as a single entity, under the Media in Motion brand. I’m now running the business, as CEO of Media in Motion,” Cunnison revealed to RGN.

“AeroFi has been focussed heavily on the technical side of streaming in the cabin and developing proprietary software and systems. MiM and RiM have a strong onboard retail pedigree and we have a common vision to create a wireless IFE and retail platform that can generate new revenues before, during and after the flight,” he continued. “We’ll have some presence at [Aircraft Interiors Expo] Hamburg where we’ll update the industry further on our progress. In the meantime we’ll be busying away launching a number of new airline programmes including SunExpress.”

Back on the topic of SunExpress, Cunnison says that the program has altered quite a bit, but that it’s now on-track and will go live on board the first few SunExpress Boeing 737s next month; just in time for a demo at ITB Berlin.

“We’re going to deploy a system that doesn’t require full STC and certification, but still do the emissions test on the aircraft so we know the aircraft is not susceptible to any of the frequencies that are expected,” he said. “I have done a few of those [STCs] before and they obviously run pretty expensive. We started looking at the PED rules and working closely with SunExpress and their engineering and quality safety people.”

The 2.0 version of the product has been developed into different form factors. One sits in overhead bins (not a popular spot for most airlines) and the other still lives in the galley. Instead of replacing an oven, the new galley version of the IFE streaming server will sit in a canister with specifications matching a standard Atlas galley container. Each of SunExpress’ 737s will give up an Atlas container slot in the front and the rear galley to provide full-cabin access to streaming content, which includes feature-length films and other content.

The units can run off battery power, or a standard in-seat power supply. Cunnison claims that the batteries enjoy a 20-hour life (spares can be kept in the Atlas canisters) and that they’ve been recently redesigned to comply with updated regulations that came into effect last year.

 

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