Rob Smith Rob Smith Director, Product Marketing - MDS

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Superfast broadband in the sky?

  • Recently there’s been a lot of news and debate around ‘Wi-Fi in the sky’ – can it rival the service that consumers experience on the ground, and is it close to becoming ubiquitous? With recent developments we’re certainly a step closer.


    Ofcom recently appeared to give the green light to the initiative – Earth Stations on Mobile Platforms – proposing speeds 20 times faster than are currently expected to be available on airlines, trains and cruise ships next year.


    If the move gets the go-ahead, the service enjoyed by those in the sky may be faster than that used by people at home. Although some airlines do already offer ‘in-flight’ internet services, such speeds would enable users to enjoy a greater variety of streaming films and music.


    However even if the increased speeds don’t immediately take hold there is an opportunity for more airlines to give passengers access to local content which is stored on the plane itself. As the use of tablets and mobiles increase there could be an opportunity for airlines to save money by providing Wi-Fi access to on-demand video content rather than installing expensive in-flight entertainment systems. Some airlines are already taking the first step towards this by providing tablets to passengers rather than inbuilt entertainment systems.


    With superfast broadband connectivity, airlines could partner with many Over the Top (OTT) service providers to offer their services – charging non-subscribers a nominal fee for access whilst on a flight.


    With firms set to unveil new commercial spot-beam satellite networks that provide support receivers on mobile platforms, high speed internet access is likely to soon become ubiquitous on many forms of transport, including planes, trains and boats, regardless of the speeds they travel at.


    As airlines and other transport services begin to offer new services they will have to ensure they have the billing services capable of dealing with these new customers. In-flight purchases must be simple and quick – as telephone support is unlikely to be available whilst in the air. What’s more, the solutions will have to be highly flexible in order to offer a wide range of market services that can be quickly launched and retired. There is likely to be a huge divide between the needs of business users and what consumers will want to access, making it vital that airlines support options for all customer types.


    Many more commercial airlines, train companies and ferry services could soon begin fitting the technology as they look to provide the best travel experience possible for their customers. With the technology expected to be rolled out as early as next year, big changes could be in store for air passengers sooner rather than later.


    With the need to keep pace with emerging technologies and what those technologies could mean for their businesses, transport providers could feel that they have yet to really tap into the customer demands.


    Transport providers are going to need to be ready to provide these services as they become available in order to stay competitive. As such, they must ensure they have the right billing infrastructure in place to offer a compelling customer experience. In terms of customer billing and management solutions, this shouldn’t equate to costly transformation projects that lock down IT and product innovation for long periods, but should instead be about the introduction of scalable, flexible solutions that offer integrated fulfilment, billing and care solutions that allow transport providers to effortlessly monetise digital services.


    Rob Smith
    About Rob Smith Rob Smith works as Director, Product Marketing at MDS
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