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In-flight connectivity: RSCC and satellite operators discussed the use of domestic communication systems on Russian aircraft

Russian Satellite Communication Company (RSCC) and satellite operators held consultations on the implementation of domestic solutions for Internet access on Sukhoi Superjet 100 and MS-21 aircraft. The event took place in the Karachay-Cherkessia from 6th to 9th February.

"Aviation is one of the strongest drivers of the space communications industry: passengers now increasingly want to use familiar services, even at an altitude of several thousand meters above the ground. The crew also needs high-quality communication throughout the entire flight. This year, according to the government's aviation industry development program until 2030, Russian airlines should receive 69 aircraft, including 20 SJ-100 and 6 MS-21-310 aircraft. Therefore, space communication operators need to understand in advance, what technical solutions will be available on board in order to provide users with reliable communications and high—speed Internet access," said Alexey Volin, General Director of RSCC. He also added that the company has extensive experience in offering such solutions in cooperation with international service providers and air companies in the global market. Therefore, RSCC is ready to use its expertise to develop a new direction on domestic aircraft.

Inflight connectivity is one of the most promising areas of the satellite market not only in Russia, but also abroad. According to Euroconsult, now more than 36 thousand passenger airliners and business jets are equipped with on-board access to the network. This number is projected to grow steadily and reach 60,000 by 2032. According to the agency, satellite operators' revenues from in-flight communications services will grow from $350 million in 2022 to $1.6 billion by 2032.

Market analysis shows that today the Internet in the air as an additional paid service in most cases is not a separate business. However, the availability of free Internet on board turns into an advantage when choosing a company by a passenger. Therefore, the most developed companies are moving to the mandatory availability of this service. For example, Delta Air Lines became the first air carrier with a global route network to offer free connectivity to all customers. Since February 1, Wi-Fi services have been provided on 500 Delta aircraft equipped with the Viasat satellite system. By the end of 2024, the equipment will be deployed throughout the entire fleet of the American airline. The only condition for access to Wi-Fi is participation in the Delta SkyMiles loyalty program. At the same time, the ability to connect does not depend on the status in the program, the class of service or the fare at which the passenger bought his ticket. The most recent example of the implementation of the service is the Middle East airline Emirates. Just some weeks ago, the Dubai-based air carrier announced that it now offers free on-board Wi-Fi to all its customers. To do this, you need to join the program for passengers making frequent air travel.

Operators of low-orbit constellations have recently targeted the promising market of inflight connectivity. Here a simple rule applies — the niche will occupy the one who first installs his equipment, because air companies are not going to refit their aircraft. Although the availability of Internet access on board is becoming an increasingly common service for airlines around the world, certification of one model for communication equipment is expensive, about $ 500,000. Therefore, it is better to lay down the possibility of satellite communications on an aircraft in advance, at the stage of its construction.