digEcor to acquire Rockwell Collins’ embedded IFE business

Rotation

After eighteen months of talks, inflight entertainment and in-seat power specialist digEcor has inked a deal to acquire Rockwell Collins’ embedded IFE business, including its PAVES-branded drop-down broadcast product and on-demand, seat-centric IFE system, Runway Girl Network can reveal.

Rumors of the arrangement circulated around the APEX EXPO this week in Boston, and when asked, digEcor CEO David Withers was able to confirm that the Australian company had “signed the deal about a month ago” with Rockwell Collins and is working to formally close it next month.

In addition to the embedded IFE assets, the agreement also includes support for Rockwell Collins’ legacy IFE products – “30 years worth of heritage product support; there is a lot of that still flying”, notes Withers.

Financial terms have not been disclosed. A spokeswoman for Rockwell Collins tells RGN:

The sale of Rockwell Collins’ commercial aircraft IFE portfolio to digEcor is aligned with the company’s previously announced intent to focus its entertainment offerings on inflight connectivity solutions vs. in-seat and overhead video IFE. The company has reached an agreement to sell this business subject to digEcor financing and customary closing conditions.

Says Withers: “So we are working through all the standard, you know, pre-close conditions with the aim of closing in October.”

Rotation
The arrangement will catapult digEcor into an interesting strategic position in the inflight entertainment market, giving it linefit offerability for the drop-down system, which is still delivered on a meaningful portion of narrowbodies. And it comes at a time when other firms in the space are mulling offering their own embedded IFE as it has become a standard offering on long-haul aircraft, and is seeing a resurgence on narrowbodies that are flying longer routes.

“Everyone thought drop-down would go away as well and we have seen an uptake in drop-down screens in the last couple years,” says Withers, as airlines are realizing that safety demonstration videos, moving maps and other content sets “are important to customers too”.

DigEcor’s Glide in-seat, on-demand IFE solution is a retrofit-only offering at present. But Withers is hopeful that, with this strategic acquisition, digEcor will ultimately be able to introduce seatback IFE into the linefit market, including on widebodies, though he acknowledges that such work takes both time and money to interface with an airframer’s IP.

On this front, a pivot by digEcor to the Android operating system for its latest IFE system – announced this week at the show – is timely. “And of course we have got a very strong position in other parts of cabin technology that we will be leveraging through as well. Ultimately it’s down to airlines going to Airbus and Boeing and demanding our product as they do, but we are now in a much better position to be able to deliver on that.”

digEcor has adopted Android OS for its latest Glide inflight entertainment system. Image: Mary Kirby

Once the Rockwell Collins IFE business is brought on board, digEcor will look to integrate both product lines. “Obviously their PAVES solution – their drop-down – is clearly something we don’t have today, so that’s an add-on. PAVES on-demand and [digEcor’s] Glide system have got lots of similarities. There are things that they do very well. There are things that we do very well and we will be merging, best of breed,” says Withers.

When the deal closes, digEcor intends to package its in-seat power solutions with its new portfolio of IFE products. From an inflight connectivity perspective, digEcor remains agnostic, willing to integrate with any of the services available. “We can connect to anybody’s connectivity,” says Withers, noting that “if the customer wants Inmarsat, then we’ll go down that path with them and we will walk that journey; and if someone wants Viasat, we’ll walk that journey; Panasonic, we will walk that journey.”

USB-A, USB-C and 110V power solutions are on offer by digEcor. Image: Mary Kirby

Rockwell Collins is being acquired by UTC for $30 billion, pending US DOJ and Chinese regulatory approval. Would digEcor seek to work with UTC? “Potentially yes,” says Withers. “It is a very good relationship as a result of what we have been through. It has taken about 18 months to get to where we are. It hasn’t been a short journey. UTC coming along [to acquire Rockwell] in the middle of it, slowed it down a little bit.”

He adds: “It has been a great journey. Rockwell has a great team of people and they live by their mantra – building trust every day. They really do believe that, and that is how they behave and they act. And that’s been great working with them through this project.”

Related Articles:

1 Comment

  1. greg

    I suspect that UTC is shedding this older generation system and will likely bid for a more established IFE supplier to round out it’s portfolio, similar to Safran (which owns Zodiac). Panasonic Avionics?