Shenzhen aircraft taking off over the airport in China

Chinese IFEC specialist FTS prepares for renewed overseas push


Covid wasn’t kind to any of us, but for Beijing-based inflight entertainment and connectivity specialist FTS, the pandemic stymied its efforts to further expand outside of China. FTS tells Runway Girl Network it is now seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

“The pandemic has not only impacted Chinese international travel, but also Chinese aviation companies like FTS Technologies trying to expand overseas,” says FTS, noting that it was prevented from having a presence at overseas events during the shutdown era, and saw business stall with foreign customers. It sent some staffers to the 2023 Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg but did not exhibit.

But with international passenger traffic nearing pre-pandemic levels, a key priority for FTS is to accelerate its recovery including with non-Chinese operators. It sees the forthcoming AIX 2024 exhibition as “a great opportunity for FTS to return to the international community” and says it intends to exhibit at the show.

FTS is perhaps best known for its XstreamSAT-branded inflight connectivity solution, offered in both Ka-band and Ku-band GEO satcom flavors. The system comprises a cabin wireless network, MODMAN, a satellite antenna system, radome and adapter plate.

In recent years, FTS successfully carved out market share in China, securing some notable wins. After trialing the Ka-band version of XstreamSAT on an A320, Qingdao Airlines in 2021 reaffirmed its commitment to deploying the system across its fleet of A320 family aircraft, with transmissions supported by China Satcom’s ChinaSat-16 (CS-16) Ka-band high-throughput satellite.

But a spokesman with FTS now tells RGN that the Qingdao Airlines IFC project “is currently on hold due to financial problems of the investor company”.

FTS also counts Shandong Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines as customers, with the firm revealing it has been tapped by the two carriers “to provide connectivity for their fleets”.

To our knowledge, this is the first time that FTS has confirmed 737/A320 operator Shenzhen Airlines as an IFC customer. It previously said Shandong was participating in a 737 digitalization pilot program. Asked by RGN if either carrier is now flying with XstreamSAT, the FTS spokesman revealed:

FTS has signed contracts with both carriers.

Deliveries involving A320 aircraft have been started since the end of 2023 and will be expanded this year.

Deliveries involving 737 aircraft are expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2024 for airworthiness certification.

In addition, it should be noted that FTS’ XstreamSAT IFC solution is not limited to Ka-band, but FTS also provides Ku-band IFC solution.

The firm describes its work in China as having seen “significant progress in product development and domestic growth” despite the pandemic.

Outside of China, FTS previously worked with Myanmar Airways International, First Air and Saudia, providing various solutions including in-cabin Wi-Fi systems and satellite communication products. Although it did not exhibit at AIX 2022 and AIX 2023, it has been closely following the recovery of international air routes and the overseas aviation market, and now has reason to believe it can renew its overseas growth trajectory.

“The staff we sent to AIX 2023 observed the renewed focus of airlines on aviation interconnectivity technology, which shows that overseas airlines have passed the toughest stage of the epidemic and have begun to focus on digital upgrading again and also that the trend of aviation digitisation and intelligence has not changed,” says the FTS spokesman.

“FTS has also made important iterations and expansions in its products and solutions over the past few years to fully meet the needs of the international market, so we believe that AIX 2024 will be a great opportunity for FTS to return to the international community.”


XstreamSAT IFC remains one of the main product lines of FTS and is continuously being upgraded, he says. “For overseas markets, we also offer XstreamIFE, a cabin entertainment system that supports wireless capabilities and the latest display technologies, including seatback systems, overhead display systems, and more. This time, at AIX 2024, we’ll be showcasing more of our products.”

As to whether or not FTS is looking to ultimately support LEO- and multi-orbit LEO/GEO IFC in time, and if it’s exploring electronically steered antenna hardware, he says: “The development of LEO satellites is very rapid, whether FTS IFC supports LEO satellites or multi-orbit satellites is mainly based on customers’ needs, FTS has been following the new technology very closely. Understanding customers’ needs is one of the concerns of FTS in AIX 2024.”

Outside of IFC, FTS is eyeing other avenues of growth. “Our mission is to focus on the needs of airlines and aircraft companies’ customers and provide competitive onboard digital and intelligent avionics solutions and services. We see that the aviation industry will enter a new phase of being safer, more environmentally friendly and more intelligent after the aircraft are more connected, and FTS will do its best to provide the best products and solutions for the future of intelligent aviation.”

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Featured image credited to Shenzhen Airlines