Global Eagle Entertainment has “big goals for 2018 and beyond” as it looks to put recent financial woes behind it and “revamp the company” under new leadership.

Plans include launching a new Ka-band satellite-based inflight connectivity service later this year to complement its existing Airconnect Ku service, which itself is undergoing a capacity boost.

SES announced earlier this week that it has secured a “major increase” of Ku-band capacity on its SES-15 High Throughput Satellite to bolster Global Eagle’s broadband service for U.S.-based airline customers.

The extra capacity was contracted “mainly to support” the Los Angeles-based content and connectivity provider’s biggest airline customer, Southwest Airlines, says Mike Moeller, vice president for aviation sales-Americas at Global Eagle.

Global Eagle had previously been the sole supplier of inflight connectivity services to Southwest. However, the company found itself in direct competition with rival Panasonic Avionics when the Dallas-based carrier announced in December 2016 that it had decided to also equip a portion of its new Boeing 737-800 and Max 8 fleets with Panasonic’s Ku service.

Southwest has not disclosed how many aircraft each connectivity provider will equip.

“The decision on how many aircraft would be deployed using Panasonic is confidential to Southwest,” says Moeller.

Southwest is not the only carrier to have signed connectivity contracts with multiple suppliers. American Airlines, for instance, has agreements in place with both Gogo and ViaSat for its domestic aircraft and with Panasonic for its long-haul fleet, while United Airlines has entered contracts with three providers: Gogo, Panasonic and Thales.

Moeller sees airlines choosing multiple connectivity suppliers as “the new trend in the industry,” noting that the strategy “allows the airline to have bandwidth and performance leverage on their suppliers.”

The trend highlights just how cut-throat and competitive the inflight connectivity market has become. As it competes for new business, Global Eagle is keen to emphasize to potential customers that it has moved beyond the financial issues that resulted in a delayed filing of its 2016 annual earnings report.

“We have gone through a transition, and we have a whole new management team. We believe we’re past the financial issues of the last year, which [stemmed from acquiring] too many companies at the same time,” says Moeller.

“We have a whole new, fresh approach focused on customers and passengers. We’re revamping the company, and we have big goals for 2018 and beyond. . . . Airlines are listening to what we have to say and they’re glad we’re back,” he says.

One of the key developments planned for this year will be the launch of a new Ka-band connectivity service over the Americas. The move toward offering both Ku and Ka services “gives us a lot of flexibility as we move forward,” says Moeller.

Global Eagle has chosen to provide a Ka service in addition to its Ku product because “not all technologies are right for everyone in different places of the world,” says Moeller. While Ka-band “has a lot of benefits,” it has “a lot of disadvantages as well.” The predominant one is that many regions are not yet covered.

“In the Americas it [Ka] has a nice place, so we want to provide that capability in the Americas,” he adds. 

While no launch customer has been announced for the new service, Moeller says the company is “working with our current customers and other customers in North America.” He adds that he is “pretty excited” about a request for proposals from Delta Air Lines for connectivity services on its new Airbus A321neo aircraft, for which he says Global Eagle has been “downselected.” Delta currently uses Gogo’s 2-Ku service.

“We want to have [an aircraft equipped with the new Ka service] flying in the second half of 2018,” says Moeller.

But Global Eagle is not the only provider planning to launch a new Ka service over the Americas this year. Thales Group is working with SES and Hughes Network Systems to bring to market a new Ka-band product to airlines based in North America. It will operate under the FlytLIVE brand.

Such strong competition can only be good news for airlines, however, whose “No. 1 goal is to drive down the cost of bandwidth,” according to Moeller.

As more and more satellites are launched to support airline connectivity, and as the new generation of low- and medium-Earth-orbit satellites operating at a Ka-band frequency come on stream further into the future, this increased supply of bandwidth will result in reduced prices for airlines.

“We want bandwidth to become a commodity. It’s a key driver for airlines, and the lower we can make the cost, the better,” says Moeller.