Q&A with Christian Regnier, Air France - The role of MVNOs in the intelligent airline

The challenge for Air France KLM, but I think it's the same for all airlines, is ground connectivity for end-of-line flights (outside the private network) where there is less demand for connectivity.

Guest author

June 10, 2020

4 Min Read
Q&A with Christian Regnier, Air France - The role of MVNOs in the intelligent airline

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Christopher Lycett, Portfolio Manager for MVNOs World Congress sat down with Christian Regnier, Enterprise Technical Architect – Critical LTE,5G and IoT, Air France to discuss the intelligent airline, private networks and the role of MVNOs.

MVNOs: What is the end-goal of the connected and intelligent airline?

Christian: In the field and from a telecommunications point of view, one of the ambitions is to connect everything “perfectly” – the data, voice and video from the cars, the crew, the loaders, the aircrafts, the command and control personnel.  The would be done through NB-IoT and IoT M2M.

I would like to give our business the opportunity to make all data and information available in a reliable and accessible way for automation purposes. This is what is done today, but part of the coordination is done manually (through voice calls, via our control and command centres, etc). Thanks to the LTE technology (NB-IoT, 5G) and also thanks to obtaining private frequencies, we would be one of the first airlines to have such an advanced and automated system for ground operations.

Operationally, this connectivity, communication and insights will improve the efficiency of our operations, allow us to better predict problems.

MVNOs: Where are you today on your journey today?

Christian: Today we are deploying the infrastructure, which is the Core IT and the shared-RAN. We hope by next year that both airports Roissy and Orly will be covered by this network and they will be deployed for the benefit of the operational users.

MVNOs: What is the biggest challenge you are faced with today?

Christian: The first challenge will be outdoor data connectivity, the closure of the current (inefficient outdoor) WiFi network as the LTE private network is migrated and commissioned, and the migration of all corresponding devices to the new network. Few changes for users except more reliable and less problematic usage, but it is mainly on the side of the IT organization and companies with the management of radio profiles, SIM cards, monitoring that will have to be provided from now on. It is these new functionalities in terms of organization for companies and IT that will enable us to better prepare for the arrival of IOT and 5G. However, this type of organization is already in place for the PMR (excluding SIM card management).

The private network will allow us, following an appropriate and adapted (and also tested) deployment, to have 20 MHz available per aircraft parking – given that we have several traffic peaks with no less than 70 flights simultaneously on the ground. In the end, we are thus allowed a total bandwidth of 20 MHz x 70 …

MVNOs: What is your relationship with MVNOs in this project?

Christian: The challenge for Air France KLM, but I think it’s the same for all airlines, is ground connectivity for end-of-line flights (outside the private network) where there is less demand for connectivity.

Where there are far fewer Air France flights per day, it could be very useful for our business if we were able to offer the same connectivity at all airports around the world with the same efficiency, but also at an affordable price.

So we’re having a lot of discussions with the MVNOs right now, but nothing concrete on private LTE at this point in time.

MVNOs: Is there further opportunity for MVNOs in this project?

Christian: Yes, the implementation of this private network is only a first step, if, as previously explained, we can access homogeneous and reliable connectivity everywhere, our businesses would then have the means to manage ground operations as if they were on the ground (video, voice, among other media). The challenge ahead is really centred on the remote local operations but also on the crews and all objects on board (baggage containers, aircraft themselves).

We want strong connectivity between the crews, the ground and the airports, everywhere. What could be better than a coupling or some other solution that allows interconnection between our LTE cores and an MVNO. Or at least the possibility of roaming between our private network and an MVNO network for our crews only.

MVNOs:So how do you plan to integrate all these different components of your network?

Christian: Today we are looking at the opportunity to have all of our network on an eSIM.

At our base in Roissy we can use a tablet, for example, through a private network, but at the other end of the line we would need to partner with an MVNO, and this MVNO along with the rest of the network would sit on an eSIM. We plan to launch this proof of concept at the end of the year.


Christian is speaking at the MVNOs World Congress virtual event on 15-17 September, find out more information here

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