The group’s first standard for agnostic IFC, published in early 2020, established a modular platform architecture for inflight connectivity. As part of this so-called Seamless Release 1.0 (SR1) standard, IFC was broken down into eight functional components, and the interfaces and technology requirements of those components. SR2, released in October of the same year, defined the information provided by each network component, enabling suppliers to design and build “OpenIFC” products using the modular architecture and open interfaces from its first release. SR3, published in late 2021, went a step further, defining an automatic control system that compares QoS, QoE, and user experience measures against an acceptable IFC product performance level. Any difference is used to adjust network resources to achieve the desired IFC experience, with minimum resources, in a closed-loop manner.
SR3 laid the groundwork for what will be SR4, a call to action for members and likely the alliance’s most impactful release to date.
Mandala explains the evolution: “The airlines have this disconnect from the SLA metric from suppliers and what passengers are experiencing. That’s exactly what airlines are telling us. That was the genesis of SR3 and how we came up with the new measures.” He refers to the alliance’s SR3 work as a “massive effort” involving 46 industry participants who, in addition to developing a new closed-loop transfer function, defined 96 new IFC measures that advance the management and control of inflight connectivity.
Continually monitoring what’s going on with the aircraft, the IFC system, the satellites, and ground network as they pertain to passenger IFC sessions, the automatic control system defined in SR3 effectively ensures a course of action can be prescribed to address problems, whether that entails, for instance, applying more or less bandwidth, thinning the content, or employing caching or protocol accelerations. “All these different methods do control it when you know exactly what’s going wrong in the system,” notes Mandala.
He tells Runway Girl Network that six different working groups — each with a chair from one of its member companies — are in the midst of developing SR4, which will see everything that was defined in SR3 made “actionable”.
SR4 is effectively a “toolkit for the industry so airlines and suppliers are talking the same language” including industry-agreed measures, a design feature checklist, and in-service agents for assessing what’s going on, and “airlines want to use that in their RFPs”. So, RFPs for IFC will reference SR4, reveals Mandala.
But airlines will not be alone in using the SR4 toolkit and language. According to Mandala, during the APEX EXPO in November 2021, Seamless was approached by airline representatives who said they understand what the alliance is doing, and told him “we’re going to bring our suppliers. If they’re not a current member, they will become a member” so a number of significant entities are in line to join the alliance, both airlines and suppliers. JetBlue is the newest publicized airline member; it followed Alaska and the Lufthansa Group, which joined late last year.
Seamless already boasts a bevy of non-airline members, including founding member Airbus, major telcos AT&T, Airtel and T-Mobile, satellite operators Intelsat, Telesat, SES and OneWeb, plus a bevy of IFC hardware suppliers and integrators including but not limited to Collins Aerospace, Kontron, Gilat, Astronics, SITA, Safran, ST Engineering and Panasonic Avionics. Notably missing from the publicized lineup are Viasat and Inmarsat.
SR4, meanwhile, is expected to drop during the first half of this year.
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Featured image credited to Seamless Air Alliance