Thales and SITA have reported on the success of pairing Thales’ GateSync with SITA’s e-Aircraft Services to enable inflight entertainment on demand to passengers’ smartphones, tablets and other devices.

 Currently on trial with LAN Airlines, at Santiago Airport, the system provides passengers with on-demand rich content straight to their own devices. This includes music, movies, news, TV series, PC games, interactive shopping, destination and flight information, all streamed within the cabin.

SITA provides connectivity for aircraft on the ground via Wi-Max, Wi-Fi, or cellular service and, through its subsidiary OnAir, inflight connectivity through satellite-based broadband services. By using SITA’s network to deliver its inflight entertainment (IFE), Thales avoids shipping hard drives and the need for manpower to upload content, while allowing frequent updates. SITA’s delivery of information is fast, secure and cost-effective, and it can handle other airline data, such as non-safety-critical operational aircraft communications, as well as the IFE content.

Stuart Dunleavy, Vice President of Media & Connectivity of Thales’s In Flight Entertainment Systems business, said, “Thales is committed to delivering high performance digital media distribution. The combination of Thales expertise in the development of in-flight entertainment and passenger connectivity solutions, with SITA’s recognized specialization in air transport communications and IT solutions is central to the success of this initiative. Each party is bringing its strengths to this project.”

Sebastien Fabre, Vice President, Integrated Networks, SITA, added, “SITA and Thales are unlocking the maximum benefits achievable from e-connected aircraft. This technology is not just for IFE, but can be for all data. In effect, we are making the aircraft an active node in the airline’s enterprise network, allowing data control by all stakeholders within the airline. Passengers get on-demand IFE, while time-sensitive data such as passenger manifests, daily news, meal inventories, surveys, crew logs and system performance data can also be securely transmitted to the airline’s operational systems.

“SITA is currently experiencing data volume growth on new generation aircraft (A380 and B787) approaching 100% compared to older generation aircraft. This demonstrates that the development of aircraft-centric IP service management is essential to meet the needs of airlines.”

This innovative trial from Thales and SITA rapidly accelerates the delivery of high speed Gatesync wireless ground connectivity for airlines, putting in place the building blocks for seamless e-enabled aircraft operations. With the evolution of aeronautical wireless communications and mobile devices, and the growth of new generation aircraft, such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787, the Thales/SITA project demonstrates not only sophisticated on-demand IFE services for passengers, but new ways of operating aircraft.

 Airlines can reduce costs and accelerate turnaround time because time-sensitive data can be transmitted wirelessly to, and from, an entire airline fleet. This automates the labor-intensive and time-consuming processes of retrieving and loading large volumes of aircraft systems’ data.

The ground-based infrastructure, which SITA has installed and manages, uses SITA’s existing private backbone network for the secure deployment and management of data among airports, airlines and third parties to the e-enabled aircraft ecosystem around the world. It is fully integrated into SITA’s Command Centers, which provide round-the-clock monitoring and support services. Onboard the aircraft, Thales provides GateSync components and integrates the system with onboard servers and avionics equipment.

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