Pilot's Guide to Avionics 2011-2012 - (Page 46)

PILOT’S GUIDE Choosing an Airborne Broadband System for Your Business Aircraft S T O R Y B Y J O S E P H E . ( J E B ) B U R N S I D E F ace it: You didn’t buy an airplane—or learn to fly one—to sit still . But, we often find much of our lives occur while we’re doing exactly that: sitting in an aircraft . And, we’re usually cut off from our normal communications channels—email, text messaging, voice and Web—while we’re flying . So much of our everyday life depends on good communication and the Internet . It’s not only inconvenient, but also burdensome to be out of touch for even the few hours the average flight requires during the average day . One solution to keeping the aircraft and its occupants in contact with the rest of the world is airborne broadband . Whether by satellite or ground station—or a combination—airborne broadband equipment and services can put Internet and other connectivity aboard your aircraft, for a price . Over the past few years, airlines around the world have been embracing these technologies, many of which are being driven by the U .S . military’s increasing demand for satellite-based command and control networks operating in real time . Today, it’s rather common for an airliner to provide text-based connectivity for smartphones; some offer full Internet connectivity . These technologies have been trickling down to business aircraft ever since . When we think of airborne broadband, we often presume we’ll have the same kind of instantaneous Internet access we enjoy at home or at the office . Unfortunately, the fiber-optic cable through which our residence or office may be getting Internet content won’t quite reach . Instead, we depend on a slower connection providing less bandwidth than we may be accustomed . In fact, “broadband” is a relative term, lacking an agreed-upon definition and has come to mean many things to many people . The good news is airline-passenger demands to remain connected while aloft have resulted in reliable, relatively mature technologies and broad choices . The bad news is the airborne broadband market is a dynamic one, replete the possibility of an operator installing today’s top-of-the-line airborne equipment and finding it obsolete in the near future . Compromises Of course, as with any relatively new capability, airborne broadband might not be inexpensive to install or operate, presuming the candidate aircraft can be configured to accommodate the required equipment and antenna placement in the first place . But, even before we get to the price tag, we need to think about which geographic areas we’ll be flying over, what services we’ll need and the bandwidth we want . For example, if your operations are primarily over the continental U .S ., you’ll have more service and installer options . Systems restricted to services like email or SMS (text messaging) will be less expensive to install and utilize than one capable of browsing the Web and streaming Netflix at FL390 . Unlike some other avionics categories, there can be a bewildering array of choices and compromises to navigate when considering airborne broadband . That might be a good thing, since having choices is always better than not . But, it also is a sign of an immature market, which means the equipment and service provider you choose may not be around in a few years to provide support . The market for airborne broadband service delivery technologies can be broken down into three broad categories: Inmarsat geostationary satellites (e .g ., SwiftBroadband), Ka/u-band satellites in low earth orbit provided by companies like ViaSat, which recently acquired ARINC’s SKYLINK service, and ground-based services from providers like AirCell . - 46 -

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pilot's Guide to Avionics 2011-2012

From the Publisher
Interested in AEA Membership?
AEA Staff/Board of Directors
New Products for 2011
Recreational Radios
Before & After
Avoiding the Bullies
Sound Advice on Headset Choices
Choosing an Airborne Broadband System for Your Business Aircraft
Class Retrofits for Type Certificated Aircraft
ADS-B: Learning the Ins and Outs
Going Glass
Cell Science
So What is Your Customer Really Paying For?
It's the FAA's Fault, Right?
Repair Stations
AEA Member Company Index
Advertisers Index

Pilot's Guide to Avionics 2011-2012