Home > Press Releases

Inflight Wi-Fi: New framework paves the way for interoperable, secure and seamless onboard connectivity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Inflight Wi-Fi: New framework paves the way for interoperable, secure and seamless onboard connectivity

New WBA Report Shows How Airlines, Vendors, Roaming Hubs and Other Stakeholders Can Eliminate Major Barriers to Foster In-Flight Wi-Fi Connectivity

London, UK, October 12th, 2022: The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) today announced publication of “In-Flight Wi-Fi Connectivity: Improving Passenger Experience, Engagement and Uptake,” a report that explores how airlines, service providers and other stakeholders can make it faster and easier for travellers to get and stay connected onboard aircraft. The report is available as a free public download at https://wballiance.com/in-flight-wi-fi-connectivity/.

The paper covers the top business and technological challenges faced by stakeholders such as airlines, identity providers including mobile operators, satellite and air-to-ground backhaul services, avionics vendors and hub services that facilitate roaming. For example, although in-flight Wi-Fi is now widely available aboard many commercial aircraft, passenger adoption does not reflect the high use of Wi-Fi that we see in other environments on the ground.

One major reason is the difficulty connecting to the Internet due to the traditional captive portal method. Passengers must connect to the correct Wi-Fi (network SSID), then navigate to the correct landing page and finally determine which pass they want to buy, how to register and pay. In an online journey, each incremental step usually leads to dropouts, and for airlines, service providers and other ecosystem members, every dropout due to this unnecessarily complex connection process is lost revenue.

Airlines have invested in inflight portal services, and an employer’s VPN is a barrier for business travellers consuming these. Once they have internet connectivity, connecting to their VPN will prevent them being able to access these onboard services. To regain access, they must disconnect their VPN. This back-and-forth makes them less likely to purchase in-flight services such as inflight food and duty free — another revenue loss for airlines and other ecosystem members.

The report explores how stakeholders can overcome these and other major barriers and improve the process. For example, implementing Passpoint® frees passengers from the hassle of manually entering log-in credentials every time. Instead, the aircraft’s network automatically authenticates and connects them on every flight with an automatic, secure and friction-free user experience.

Passpoint also lays the foundation for airlines and other ecosystem members to participate in the WBA’s OpenRoaming™ federation. By simply adding the appropriate Roaming Consortium Organization Identifiers (RCOIs) to the network, airlines and other ecosystem members can leverage the enhanced security, privacy, and automatic network attached experience afforded by Passpoint, which are key concerns for business travellers, with the convenience of OpenRoaming for authentication.

As a federated service, OpenRoaming also ensures that travellers get and stay connected at additional locations throughout their journey to and in the airport, hotels, convention centers and any other public locations, and finally on board the aircraft. Airlines can use this gate-to-gate experience to create new loyalty opportunities for travellers, and new monetization models with identity providers and partners.

Going forward, WBA members have already agreed to move one step further and start developing industry guidelines for users' digital experience when using Wi-Fi networks. This ultimately will unleash a consistent experience across networks with non-fixed backhaul, such as maritime and trains use cases. Ultimately, an integrated and consistent mechanism will be trialled initially by WBA members in real world scenarios, and create the standard for commercial rollout.

Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance, said: “Connectivity today is fundamental for our daily lives and Wi-Fi is the most used wireless connectivity technology in the world. The in-flight Wi-Fi experience must improve to give vacationers and business travellers access to flight information, entertainment, social media and more. But a host of technological and business challenges have prevented in-flight Wi-Fi from living up to its mainstream potential. This report shows airlines, mobile operators, avionics vendors and other stakeholders how they can overcome those barriers to adoption — creating new revenue, branding, loyalty and other business opportunities in the process.”

Bruno Tomas, CTO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance said: “Airline travel is soaring, with international traffic up 229.5% over the past year and total traffic up 76.2%, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). That trend means now is the ideal time for airlines to take a fresh look at their in-flight Wi-Fi experience. This report shows how they can use Passpoint and WBA OpenRoaming to eliminate complexity so passengers can take full advantage of all their in-flight services.”

WBA MEMBER QUOTES

Dr. Angelos Mavridis, Senior Wi-Fi Roaming Manager, Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier said: “Wi-Fi networks and internet access have been available in cabins of several airlines over the last twenty years. Difficulty for users to connect and to stay connected to the web, plus the consumption of local content on the airline portal during a flight are reported to be main reasons for limited user acceptance of Inflight Connectivity (IFC).

“WBA OpenRoaming addresses the issues to connect automatically and securely to the internet and now provides the potential for passengers to take full advantage of all their in-flight services. The whitepaper describes in several use cases Inflight Connectivity from the viewpoint of stakeholders including airlines and mobile operators and demonstrates how new technologies can be used to increase user experience and uptake. As 60% of airline passengers state that being online while flying is a necessity and not a luxury, Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier offers roaming solutions for mobile operators to enable customers to roam on inflight networks as easily as they roam in foreign countries.”

Guillaume Vivet, Vice President, Digital Commerce & Experience, Inmarsat said: “The vast potential of inflight connectivity to transform global aviation and enhance the passenger experience has never been in doubt. The global pandemic accelerated passenger demand for on-board digital interactions, and this demand is only growing. That’s why we introduced our customer experience platform OneFi, to bring a host of onboard services together within a single interface, helping to ease connection issues for passengers while allowing them to enjoy shopping, streaming, and real-time journey updates on their own devices. Simultaneously, OneFi enables multiple revenue generation opportunities for airlines and their partners.

“Being part of the WBA enables us to collaborate with the right organisations to ensure passengers can make the most of their inflight services. Technologies such as Passpoint have been working well on the ground, and there is no reason they should not be deployed in an airline environment. Doing so would help to solve connectivity problems for passengers and generate more value for passengers and airlines.”

John Haspil, VP Roaming & Offload, Single Digits said:

“The majority of users with smart devices would like the option of using Wi-Fi inflight not only to consume local entertainment options, but to communicate with colleagues and/or friends and family. Significant differences in network configurations and service availability between airlines mean that users do not have the most streamlined experience when trying to connect. Single Digits has participated and collaborated in this group to ensure that its many years of experience both in connecting users to networks, and networks to each other via their world-leading roaming hub can help to boost the uptake of inflight Wi-Fi services.

“Leveraging technologies such as Passpoint can help to increase the usage benefits for passengers and airlines alike and by following recommendations in this paper and using technology such as Single Digits’ ConnectionAssist platform for device configuration and identity provision, the friction that users typically experience when trying to use the services onboard is vastly reduced.”


About the Wireless Broadband Alliance

Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is the global organization that connects people with the latest Wi-Fi initiatives. Founded in 2003, the vision of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is to drive seamless, interoperable service experiences via Wi-Fi within the global wireless ecosystem. WBA’s mission is to enable collaboration between service providers, technology companies, cities, regulators and organizations to achieve that vision. WBA’s membership is comprised of major operators, identity providers and leading technology companies across the Wi-Fi ecosystem with the shared vision.

WBA undertakes programs and activities to address business and technical issues, as well as opportunities, for member companies. WBA work areas include standards development, industry guidelines, trials, certification and advocacy. Its key programs include NextGen Wi-Fi, OpenRoaming, 5G, IoT, Testing & Interoperability and Policy & Regulatory Affairs, with member-led Work Groups dedicated to resolving standards and technical issues to promote end-to-end services and accelerate business opportunities.

The WBA Board includes Airties, AT&T, Boingo Wireless, Broadcom, BT, Cisco Systems, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, Intel, Reliance Jio, Turk Telekom and Viasat. For the complete list of current WBA members, click here: https://wballiance.com/join-us/current-members/