July 25, 2024

Tech Talk: Reza Rasoulian of Hughes

Reza Rasoulian is the Senior Vice President of Hughes, the supplier of network systems to a range of industries, including commercial aviation. At the 2024 Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, Reza spoke with Stuart Forster, Onboard Hospitality’s Technology and Retail Editor.

Stuart Forster (SF): How has your 2024 AIX been?

Reza Rasoulian (RR): We’ve had a series of announcements.

We started the show off with our full duplex antenna system for commercial aviation. It’s a revolutionary, lightweight, very capable, electronically steerable antenna optimised for the commercial aviation space.

It’s optimised for OneWeb – a really low latency experience. We’ve been demoing the performance outside and all the feedback has been tremendous.

We also announced signing an MOU with Airbus for HBCplus, so we will be a Ka-band MSP [Managed Service Provider] and we’re also looking into working with them to potentially also become a Ku-band MSP.

One of the key tenets of Hughes, as an aviation service provider, is to be very agile and to work with our aviation airline customers to pretty much provide the best possible experience.

We’ve got three distinct products: a LEO-only product, a Ka-band product called Hughes JUPITER in-flight, and we can blend with our Hughes Fusion product. We can blend GEO and LEO together, so at Ka-band to get the high density and low latency LEO of OneWeb.

We have also announced a partnership with TCI Aircraft Interiors and Turksat to deliver connectivity to more than 120 more than AJet aircraft: Boeing 737s and A320s. AJet is a part of the Turkish Airlines family and we’re really excited about that.

I think that was testament to Hughes’ capability to provide managed services in aviation and connectivity.

We’ve had a lot of announcements and our discussions with airline partners are going tremendous. We scheduled 30-minute meetings and most of them are running way over because there’s so much interest. We’re truly reinventing in-flight connectivity.

There are close to 10,000 aircraft connected today and, frankly, it’s not a great experience. So when we came to market with our products, leveraging 20+ years of experience in in-flight connectivity through partners, we looked at the problem in a different way.

We’re leveraging some of our managed service capability on the ground for our backend systems for the gateway, the ground segment, and we’ve applied that to the aircraft.

SF: What notable industry trends are emerging?

RR: I think the insatiable need for a connected experience onboard an aircraft is ever so prevalent. Pre-COVID, I think everyone wanted to be connected but post-COVID I think it was a heightened sense of need for connectivity.

I was having a conversation with a consultant who works with shared documents, as a lot of us do these days in organisations. And so you can have five people working on a 100-page document at the same time because it’s an online document in the cloud. She was telling me how frustrated she gets flying, when she can’t contribute to a document that’s being worked on that day.

The other trend is the seatback: the integration to a connected seatback experience and the need for more devices for each person. The human-to-device ratio continues to expand and I think we’ll continue seeing that over the next couple of years going forward.

SF: What’s next for Hughes?

RR: We have a fantastic partnership with Delta to deliver the regional jets and 717 connectivity. So we’ll be continuing to work to deliver that product.

We have a lot of interest in our solutions because I think airlines are looking for something different. They want to have a provider that is nimble, agile and also has the ability to bring not just one solution but different solutions for their specific need. We won’t push them one way or the other and will be in a consultative form to really do the best for the airline and ultimately the passenger.

We’re looking to go into 2025 with a lot of aircraft flying and certified, and launching our in-flight connectivity management system in production – which is right around the corner.