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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Private public collaboration advances innovation in connectivity

Wi-Fly is a superfast internet service that is likely to be available on commercial aircraft from late 2018

Real innovation is hard to find. Even rarer is home- grown innovation right here in the Emirates. News of last week’s successful test in the UAE of a viable in-flight high-speed broadband service, is however, a great example of what can be achieved when some of the country’s leading entities collaborate on the development of new technologies.

Wi-Fly is a super-fast internet service that is likely to be available on commercial aircraft from late next year after a consortium of Emirati and international companies, including Yahsat, Etihad Airways Engineering and du, successfully completed a series of tests in Abu Dhabi last week.

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This will potentially put the UAE at the forefront of an industry that will be worth US$130 billion by 2035, according to the London School of Economics. This trend will be driven by consumer demand for connectivity at all times, particularly while traveling. However, it will only be through similar collaboration to that which led to the development of Wi-Fly that this demand will be adequately and quickly met.

The results of a survey by the International Air Transport Association (Iata) showed that 42 per cent of passengers would prefer to use their own devices on board aircraft.

Nick Careen, Iata’s senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security, said that to satisfy travellers today with the levels of connectivity they require, industry will need government support, especially in terms of regulation.

It is clear that the UAE can find the right mix of private and public sector collaboration when required. It is hoped the commercial success of Wi-Fly in the future will inspire further efforts at joint innovation in other key areas of transport innovation such as autonomous vehicles.

In Dubai, the Roads and Transport Authority is working with Careem and Uber on the development of new mobility solutions for the 21st century including driverless cars and flying taxis.

These efforts should keep the country at the forefront of transport for many dec­ades to come.