The race is on for market share in a communication system that will allow the in-flight use of personal cellphones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), such as the BlackBerry. Denmark’s Satcom1 considers itself very much among the front-runners in this contest.
Following a somewhat protracted rollout, the availability of end-user airborne broadband services now appears ready to meet the burgeoning demand from business aircraft operators and their passengers. And much of this technology is being demonstrated here at EBACE this week.
For operators clamoring to take full advantage of Inmarsat’s new Swift64 airborne data service, Honeywell and Thales announced that the new MCS-7000 satcom system has received FAA approval. The first MCS-7000 has been shipped to Gulfstream’s Appleton, Wis. completion center for installation on a Gulfstream IV-SP owned and operated by Phillips Petroleum.
Inmarsat announced that its long-awaited high-speed airborne data services will be available by the end of the year. The service, called Swift64, will allow passengers flying aboard satcom-equipped corporate aircraft to access the Internet and e-mail at 64 kbps, faster than most computer telephone modem connections. Swift64 is based on Inmarsat’s global-area network platform, said a spokesman.
Inmarsat, the main satellite communications provider to civil aviation, maritime and land-mobile users, has been placed on the sales block after the company once again canceled plans to float a public stock offering. At press time, three suitors–Apollo Advisers, Apax Partners and Permira–were understood to be on the verge of submitting final bids to purchase the UK-based company, estimated to be worth about $1.6 billion.
At last month’s NBAA Convention Honeywell unveiled a new service called ePaxx, which it said has been developed to provide business jet passengers with quick access to e-mail, news, stock quotes and moving maps, even in aircraft that do not have high-speed data connections to the Internet. The new service, said the company, is available for any aircraft that has an airborne telephone and 115-volt, 60-Hz power.
Bombardier and Rockwell Collins are developing a new integrated cabin for the Canadian manufacturer’s Global 5000. Leveraging technology acquired by Collins when it bought cabin product specialist Airshow over the summer, the new Airshow 21 cabin, said spokespeople for both companies, will include an Ethernet-based local area network (LAN), providing users with Internet connections and access to printers, fax and a file server.
In a major vote of confidence for Arinc’s new SkyLink airborne broadband data service, Gulfstream announced it is buying 40 complete systems for installation in customer airplanes. This is the launch order for the system, which Arinc claims offers Internet connections that are five times faster and a third the price of Inmarsat’s rival Swift64 service.
Arinc announced it has successfully tested a “true broadband communications receiver for aircraft” called SkyLink, which the company said provides Internet surfing capability aboard business jets at speeds unparalleled by competing offerings. The Annapolis, Md.
Mobile Connect is the name of a new direct-dialing service for business aircraft passengers from Stratos Aeronautical Services of the UK and Honeywell. The service provides each customer with a personal telephone and fax number that never changes regardless of which corporate aircraft they are in at the time.