Gulfstream offers airborne Web access

 - December 18, 2007, 7:37 AM

Gulfstream announced that it has received an STC for the installation of its Broad Band Multi-Link (BBML) high-speed Internet connection, giving buyers another choice for airborne access to the Web.

At last month’s NBAA Convention in Las Vegas, Gulfstream took a group of aviation editors on a one-hour flight in a Gulfstream V equipped with the data system. On board were several new Dell Latitude D600 laptop computers, allowing each of the editors to try the BBML system, which Gulfstream officials expected would be approved on the GV late last month. First customer installations should be finished by year-end.

BBML uses a service called SkyLink developed by Arinc Direct to provide Internet access that Gulfstream claims can be more than 10 times faster than Inmarsat’s Swift64. Based on AIN’s experience on the flight, BBML’s access speed seemed as fast as that of a ground-based cable or DSL line. Robert Geary, Gulfstream manager of completions, research and development, said connection speed during last month’s flight, based on his experience with BBML, was probably about two megabytes per second. Swift64 service can be as fast as 64 kbps per channel, with many buyers bonding two or more channels for faster overall data rates.

“When you start talking about megabytes instead of kilobytes, you’re getting cable-like speeds,” said Pres Henne, Gulfstream senior vice president of programs, engineering and test.

Data speeds as high as 3.5 mbps are possible with BBML, according to Arinc Direct. Gulfstream is guaranteeing minimum connection speeds of 512 kbps to the aircraft and 128 kbps from the aircraft. Normal speeds are at least 700 kbps to more than one megabyte, said Geary.

The cost of the system will be about $650,000 installed. Arinc, said Geary, is waiving the usage fee for the first six months of operation. After that, the user and Arinc will set up a plan based on the customer’s expected hours of use per month, at a rate Gulfstream said will be “significantly lower than the typical service fees on airlines.”

Arinc’s SkyLink currently provides coverage over North America and Hawaii via a single satellite. The company will add the North Atlantic and European areas in the first quarter of next year, with the Pacific to follow late next year or in early 2006.

BBML onboard equipment includes a dish antenna mounted under the tail radome, an antenna control unit, a combined LAN switching unit/transceiver router in the credenza in the cabin and a Gulfstream-exclusive cabin server under the cabin floor. The dedicated satellite-based system can also tie directly into an existing office voice-over-Internet protocol telephone network.

The STC for BBML on the GV will include the G550 and G500. Approval for the G450 and G350 is expected by the first quarter of next year.

Gulfstream plans to offer the system for installation on business jets built by other manufacturers at its Appleton, Wis., and Dallas facilities.