Inflight Connectivity Revolution Gaining Momentum Across Africa
Kevin Odhiambo Opiyo – IFEC Specialist takes a look at Africa's latest in flight connectivity position
Rwanda was recently the host of a major aviation summit in Kigali – The Aviation Africa 2017 forum and the ongoing hard work of Rwanda as a country and the aviation officials to make Rwanda region’s aviation hub is commendable.
In fact, Allan Peaford, Editor in Chief – African Aerospace / Arabian Aerospace Magazines aptly captured this by saying, “There is a commitment to aviation in Rwanda and there is a commitment to aviation in Africa.”
Later on in Nairobi, there was an announcement that the US government has completed an audit of Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International airport - JKIA therefore effectively upgrading it to category one status coming against a backdrop of a struggling tourism industry following recent on and off travel advisories issued. However, this is not the subject of our discussion in this article.
Our discussion in this article is about the continued momentum of the adoption of inflight connectivity by global airlines. In fact according to American comedian and actor Louis C.K. in a talk show said, “high speed internet on the plane is the newest thing that I know exists.”
With the advent of IoT ( internet of things), continued improvement of infrastructure and fourth generation IFEC convergence, inflight connectivity is now possible in the 21St century and therefore a pressing reason for African airlines to comply.
At this juncture let’s now define Inflight connectivity, which basically refers to the ability of the passenger to stay connected using their personal devices up to 35,000 feet or more in the air.
Essentially by being connected, the passenger should be able to access the internet, inflight mobile phone calls, send and receive text messages by making use of onboard airline network architecture.
In fact Air Cote d’Ivoire CEO René Decurey commented on this by saying, “Passengers are telling us they want access to internet connectivity from ground-to-air, to enable them to sustain their online lives, wherever they fly.”
The CEO made these statements as the airline became the latest African carrier to announce that it will offer connectivity in its 5 new Airbus A320’s courtesy of SITAONAir and Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband data service
In North Africa, according to Egyptian publication the Egypt Independent, EgyptAir is engaging global aircraft factories to obtain 35 to 40 new aircraft under a plan to renew the company's fleet and therefore the possibility of installing connectivity should be expected.
Closer home, sometime mid last year in 2016, as Ethiopian Airlines took delivery of its first of the 14 Airbus A350-900 aircraft, making it the first African A350 XWB operator; they made an important announcement that the aircraft will be equipped with Inflight Wi-Fi connection.
Then towards the end of 2016 RwandAir excited Africa as it made onboard connectivity a reality when it acquired Airbus A330-200 nicknamed ‘Ubumwe’ (unity), later on ‘Umurage’ A330-300 and the first Boeing 737-800 Next Generation in the African continent named ‘Kalisimbi’ hence, the CEO John Mirenge commenting that “We are now set to compete globally,”.
Therefore, African airlines have realized that to compete effectively globally they have to invest in their equipment of operation in this case the aircraft mixed with a bespoke product and to offer a seamless customer experience.
In essence the same ground experience is availed to the passenger seating in a chair in the sky traveling either for business or pleasure.