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Thu, Feb 29, 2024

SmartSky Installs first King Air 350 System

Competition Heating Up in ‘Connectivity’ Industry as Clients Jump Between Services

Davinci Jets Services has snagged another 'first' with SmartSky gear, this inaugurating service of the SmartSky LITE system on a Beechcraft King Air 350.

The inflight air-to-ground (ATG) connectivity suite empowers the King Air with considerable internet performance for constant, around the clock access for Davinci clients. The SmartSky system is expected to see its STC add another 18 different King Air models to the list, too, providing those turboprop twin operators reliant upon the workhorse with internet that feels pretty close to terrestrial for a change. 

The SmartSky system stands apart from many inflight connectivity offerings, relying upon a network of point-to-point towers instead of satellites. For now, the service can go toe to toe with the majority of satellite networks, themselves still adapting to customer expectations. For years, satellite connectivity was only expected to carry light data loads, like weather updates, ATC advisories, or voice comms. Customers are accustomed to the world of unlimited-data smartphone plans, and the always-on business expectations of remote work now burden satellite network operators with expectations far beyond what they once expected. SmartSky doesn't complain about full lifestreams or video calls just yet, with Davinci customers happily preferring the new system to their previous suite.

One Davinci Jets pilot said the SmartSky LITE has been "way better", saying the previous one was "pretty spotty." Granted, the service in use before wasn't the top-tier premium service offered by the SmartSky competitor, lacking the streaming and speed allowances its much more expensive service provides. Still, at the ground level, all that pax and pilots know is that the internet isn't as fast or reliable as they'd want it to be in a big-bucks private plane experience. "Half the time our passengers or the crew couldn’t even connect," the pilot added, "let alone send a text. Now we can send photos, FaceTime, and stream videos really easily. Everyone’s excited.” 

The installation adds to Davinci Jets' expanding collection of SmartSky-equipped aircraft. It seems as if they're content to go all-in on the brand, which is fairly understandable considering the limits of competing systems. While much of the brochure-performance seems similar enough to be irrelevant, it's the little aspects of operation that can drive customers crazy - like device allotments. A competing system only allows 12 devices on the more affordable plan, which really puts a cramp in client enthusiasm. 

Eric Legvold, CEO of Davinci Jets said that limit was one of the best things about making the jump. “What’s different and so much easier about SmartSky is there is no pre-set limit to the number of devices connected, unlike the legacy ATG systems. We can have watches, cell phones and computers connected as if you were in your office. Plus, customers can use their cellphones to make calls without any special app and stream on any device, all without paying additional fees or subscriptions.” 

The interesting part is still to come, when the competition heats up in the in-flight connectivity market. In some ways, it's very reminiscent of the early days of standard cellular phone plans - those who remember the aughts recall the painful 25-cent cost of every text message sent over the arbitrary allotment. With competition heating up, and customer demands increasing, who can say how much better in-flight internet will be in 20 years? 

FMI: www.smartskynetworks.com

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