For any pilot who’s ever sat glued to the Weather Channel or logged onto a weather Web site to keep a watchful eye on a powerful cold front or line of thunderstorms sweeping across the country, the term airborne datalink could soon take on special significance.
Sky Connect of Takoma Park, Md., a provider of Iridium-based tracking, voice and communications systems, is at Booth No. 7428 introducing a new satellite phone system. The company calls it the industry’s first in-flight Iridium hardware package to offer two-way text-messaging over a panel-mounted dialer with USB interface.
TrueNorth Avionics (Booth No. 4908) is showcasing its Simphone (pronounced “symphony”) in-flight satphone line here this week, including the recently introduced Chorus, Duo and Solo systems.
“After two years of design work we are extremely pleased the hard work of our TrueNorth Avionics team has come to fruition,” said Mark van Berkel, founder, president and CEO of the Ottawa, Canada-based company.
It’s a small world, after all, and the one-two combination of a business airplane and an Internet connection for the cabin can make it seem even smaller.
It’s not exactly a call from the governor, but it still qualifies as a reprieve of sorts. Verizon Airfone has sent letters to customers informing them that the MagnaStar air-to-ground phone service will stay on the air at least until the end of next year.
Just as passengers were getting used to surfing the Web in flight over the Swift64 satellite datalink, Inmarsat spelled out plans for the next generation of high-speed datalink services for aircraft, to be known as SwiftBroadband. Inmarsat is now building the I4 satellites to support SwiftBroadband services in Toulouse, France, and plans to launch the first two next year.
Although Inmarsat officials insist that the company is exploring ways to alleviate Swift64 data traffic congestion–which has been preventing many users of the satellite ISDN service from accessing the network at peak times–they say improvements won’t come until this summer when engineers start implementing a number of technical remedies designed to free up additional frequency spectrum.
As most of its customers know by now, AirCell no longer actively markets airborne cellular systems, mainly because new digital cellular technology is rendering much of its existing analog-based ground network obsolete–but that doesn’t mean the AirCell name is a misnomer.
Customer knowledge today about office-in-the-sky communications technology seems to be similar to the level of understanding of personal computers 10 to 15 years ago. Buyers then knew they needed a PC of some sort but many remained unclear about exactly what kind of computer they needed.
Iridium’s new chief executive comes to the job following seven consecutive quarters of profitability and with plans in place to replace the communication network’s constellation of 66 satellites starting in 2013.