Satellite operator Thaicom is moving into the mobility services business, starting with a deal with Thai budget airline Nok Air to provide commercial in-flight connectivity services.
The Thaicom In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) broadband service, offered in partnership with Global Eagle Entertainment/Row44, will be implemented as a value-added service for Nok Air passengers, giving them access to Wi-Fi broadband combined with video content.
Thaicom is providing the Ku-band link for the service via a third-party satellite provider rather than its own satellites.
“Our own satellites aren’t really designed for this kind of service,” said chief marketing officer Nile Suwansiri. “But we partner with other companies and buy bandwidth for certain services all the time, so it’s not unusual for us.”
Nok Air CEO Patee Sarasin said the IFC service is still pending approval from several regulatory agencies, but should be cleared for commercial service sometime next month.
Sarasin also said Nok Air will offer the service for free because Wi-Fi has already become a commodity service.
“People just expect it to be free now, especially the youth market. But that also attracts more customers and gets them in seats,” he said. “And we’re not just offering a connection, we’re also offering content.”
The Nok Air deal coincided with Thaicom’s launch of its “New Frontiers” campaign, under which the company will expand its focus to include end-to-end satcom mobility services for air, land, and sea vehicles.
Suwansiri admitted that the mobility segment is a competitive one, “but we’re taking a pragmatic approach by starting small and expanding slowly.”