TrueNorth, LiveTV team on bizjet Wi-Fi

 - November 30, 2010, 5:30 AM

TrueNorth Avionics, LiveTV Airfone and Satcom Direct are teaming to develop and market a next-generation Magnastar air-to-ground communications system that will provide voice, Wi-Fi Internet and e-mail, text messaging and multichannel VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) services to business jet operators.

Using the existing Magnastar ground network, the system will operate through TrueNorth’s open-architecture ­Simphone- OpenCabin hardware system. The $11,000 package can be purchased as an upgrade for existing Magnastar operators and will also be available to new customers. According to TrueNorth, the hardware package will provide automatic switching from Airfone’s voice and data services to the Iridium satellite communications network when out of range of Magnastar ground stations. Satcom Direct will manage the service and handle all billing.

TrueNorth and LiveTV (owned by JetBlue) will co-develop the system hardware by combining a new Magnastar radio with TrueNorth’s Simphone- system. It will use LiveTV’s exclusive FCC-licensed “clear channel” 1 MHz air-to-ground frequency band for voice calls and data routing.

TrueNorth Avionics is also introducing two technologies for Magnastar operators that will enable e-mail through the LiveTV Airfone network. The first is Express Portable, a laptop-size carry-on unit that plugs into an existing Magnastar system. The second, Express for Magnastar, is a hard-wired box that provides the same function.

The Ottawa, Canada, company also recently introduced TrueNorth Express, a plug-in hardware module that lets owners of virtually any airborne telephone use their smartphones to send and receive e-mails worldwide over the Iridium network. Essentially, TrueNorth Express provides a self-contained Wi-Fi hot spot for e-mail over smartphones such as BlackBerry, iPhone and Android.

TrueNorth is also developing a new software app called InControl to help aircraft operators manage in-flight broadband usage of its Simphone- OpenCabin airborne system. InControl can track usage on all off-aircraft networks and allot a specific volume of broadband traffic to each passenger. TrueNorth says the InControl app lets the operator control almost any aspect of service. The InControl software program is simply downloaded to an existing Simphone- OpenCabin system, with no hardware installation required.