Germans buying SITA VHF datalink

 - February 5, 2007, 5:47 AM

Germany’s air navigation service provider (ANSP), Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS), has agreed to buy the SITA network of 27 VHF datalink (VDL) ground stations in the country. In another move toward the regionalization of communications, navigation and surveillance (CNS) services, SITA and Airservices Australia are developing a plan to deploy a 100-strong network of automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) ground stations throughout southeast Asia.

The DFS deal is regarded as a preliminary step in the anticipated consolidation of European ANSPs triggered by the European Commission’s move toward a single European sky and the reorganization of upper airspace into cross-border functional airspace blocks. The deal will enable DFS to provide ATC-oriented controller-pilot datalink communications through its own network, while ACARS-style airline operations control (AOC) traffic will be transferred seamlessly to and from the global SITA network, with the ANSP sharing a portion of the revenue. The transaction is worth a total of $1.8 million (E1.4 million).

SITA has already signed similar deals, such as selling its VDL network in Spain to AENA, the nation’s air navigation service provider. But, said David Russell, SITA’s vice president of airline communications and Aircom services, the company does not intend “to pursue the same sort of partnership with every ANSP in Europe.” DFS CEO Dieter Kahn said his company was “very interested in a strong partnership with SITA, one that would not necessarily be confined to Germany.”

“Communications, navigation and surveillance networks are naturally regional,” Russell said. “Radio networks using ground stations have always provided cross-border services and communication via satellite has increased their reach. National ANSPs created their own CNS networks, but they could follow the airline model of having cooperative CNS services.”

SITA’s transfer of the ground stations to the DFS avoids the possibility of redundant infrastructure, he added. SITA also plans to support DFS in exploring the possibility of expanding into other territories and is interested primarily in service provision. “We’re not too hung up on who owns the infrastructure,” said a company spokesman.

“SITA is promoting regional infrastructure,” said Aircom service development director Akhil Sharma. “In Europe we have a deal with Spain and now a partnership with DFS, but if we make a similar deal with every ANSP we’re just replicating the problem.” SITA will retain exclusive rights to use the network for AOC traffic and the service should remain transparent to users, who will continue to be billed by SITA.

CNS Plan for Southeast Asia
The ADS-B program with Airservices Australia differs from the DFS deal in that rather than selling existing infrastructure to an ANSP, SITA is installing the ground stations in conjunction with Airservices Australia and will effectively sell track information to other ANSPs.

Aircraft equipage with ADS-B avionics is increasing rapidly because of the European mandate for mode-S transponders and the creation of a 28-strong national ground station network in Australia.

In 2003 Airservices teamed with local avionics manufacturer Microair to design and develop a low-cost ADS-B package for small aircraft. Honeywell and Filser Avionics of Germany produce alternatives to the Microair package.