The recent security move to end the carrying of laptops and table computers in the cabins of commercial aircraft flying from certain “high risk” middle eastern countries, may become a global ban which has major implications for satellite operators.
The original ban was introduced as the result of evidence that terrorist suicide bombers were placing significant amounts of explosive inside fake laptops and getting them through airport security. For example, a laptop bomb was exploded by a suicide bomber on an airline flight over Somalia in February 2016. In the event, the Daallo Airlines flight was not at a high enough altitude/pressure differential when the bomb exploded to destroy the Airbus A321 aircraft, although the bomber himself was blown out through a hole of his own making in the side of the aircraft.
The new security move is expected to be eventually made into a universal ban, with laptops having to be carried in hold luggage on all world commercial aircraft flights.
Airline safety officials have noted that putting laptops in hold luggage has safety implications given that some laptops and tablet computers carry Lithium batteries that can go into “thermal runaway” and even catch fire, especially if laptops have not been turned off properly (this writer has partial experience of this when his laptop was fired up accidentally in his hand luggage, and in being protectively wrapped up in cloth was becoming very warm).
The new ban is also a concern to satellite operators who were banking on airline internet connectivity being a key driver of satellite communications traffic. Earlier this month, the Satellite 2017 conference had satellite companies announcing new airline connectivity deals. Demand may not be what they originally expected if laptops and tablets now have to be carried in the hold – even if smartphones are still allowed. Likewise, airlines may have to review their in-flight entertainment offering now laptops and tablets will not be available. Some airlines were planning to do away with their own in flight entertainment screens entirely.
A full explanation of the problem is described in this BBC article.