AIN is developing a 14-part series of articles, infographics and videos that speak to Tomorrow's Aviation Challenges. Sponsored by Honeywell Aerospace. Learn more. .
The global COVID-19 pandemic underscores the value of business aviation. As scheduled airline traffic and passenger loads have declined, more businesspeople are using corporate and chartered aircraft for essential domestic and international travel.
In addition to the safety, security and convenience they’ve come to expect from business aviation, business jet travelers are realizing a huge competitive advantage by staying connected, productive and entertained, whenever and wherever they fly. They expect a fully functioning “office in the sky” with onboard Wi-Fi that is fast, reliable and always available.
Enormous advancements in satellite communications hardware, software and services have created much larger data pipes across the entire SATCOM ecosystem. As a result, business jet passengers can do just about anything in the air they can on the ground, from sending and receiving email and downloading large files, to videoconferencing and watching live TV.
Naturally, all this bandwidth consumption comes at a cost. Video streaming, in particular HD video streaming, consumes a lot of data and can easily test the upward limits of even premium data service agreements. Just a few videoconferences a week can absolutely crush an operator’s basic service plan, resulting severe sticker shock when the Wi-Fi bill arrives. Just like in the cellular phone business, satellite internet providers charge much more on a per-megabyte basis for data consumed over and above contracted plan limits.
Of course operators want to provide passengers with a great in-flight internet experience, but they also want to avoid overage charges and achieve budget consistency. Operators can avoid sky-high overage charges by staying informed and in control of their data use so they can keep within the limits of their internet service plan. Here are three tried and true strategies.
Choose a Plan that Meets Passengers’ Needs
It’s the old Goldilocks paradox. Operators want a data plan big enough to meet all their passengers’ demands without going over the plan limits, but not so big they’re leaving megabytes on the table at the end of the typical billing period.
Experience is a good yardstick and before committing to a new plan most operators find it useful to look at how much data passengers have consumed in the past per hour of flight. But they also need to recognize that some internet service providers have been forgiving overage charges they are contractually entitled to collect. As bandwidth demand continues to grow, overage charges are likely to become the norm in this industry, so it’s important to pick a plan that accurately fits the operator’s unique needs.
The Honeywell Forge in-flight connectivity, flight services and optimization, and database solution offers operators a number of options. For example, Honeywell provides tools and configuration support for active management of cabin connectivity and bandwidth consumption. This enables the operator to meet specific performance standards, reliability metrics and bandwidth limits to ensure an optimal connectivity experience within a right-sized package.
Operators have many options in choosing a satellite internet service provider. For example, Honeywell works with partners like Inmarsat, ViaSat and Iridium to offer custom airtime service plans. Honeywell Forge cabin connectivity engineers can help operators choose the best plan for their specific needs.
Limit Bandwidth to Avoid Costly Overages
Bandwidth is expensive, so operators need to maximize use of the data pipe without negatively impacting passengers’ connectivity experience. Honeywell Forge includes data management features that help operators control data use and reduce cost.
For example, Honeywell Forge data compression features reduce bandwidth demand on static video content, which includes most of the content available on video-streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. Honeywell has tools that manage the data to optimize performance, reduce latency and increase the useable bandwidth so video consumes a smaller portion of total available data pipe. The tradeoff is a small decrease in video resolution, imperceptible on most passenger devices.
Another Honeywell Forge tool prevents passengers’ personal devices from automatically connecting to the Wi-Fi to download routine software and application updates. These “vampire” connections can consume considerable bandwidth over time, driving up the internet services bill.
Other Honeywell Forge tools manage in-flight connections, limit usage to certain personal devices or types of content, and enable billing on a per-passenger, per-device or per-flight basis, to allow connectivity costs to be distributed to multiple passengers, companies or departments.
Make Data Consumption Visible
Honeywell Forge takes the concept of inform and control to new heights. The customizable dashboard provides a wealth of information to let operators monitor the operational landscape from the fleet level down to each individual aircraft, including the connectivity status of each aircraft.
For example, the platform captures in-flight internet health details and provides up-to-the-minute status reports. Icons and text messages indicate the status of each component and whether the end-to-end internet connection is complete. Any issues with the connection are identified through a visual cue and guidance for a solution is presented.
The Honeywell Forge platform also provides operators with the information they need to help control bandwidth usage. The dashboard enables users to set data-consumption limits and provides regular status alerts, including a warning when 25 percent of the preset limit is reached. This lets operators make necessary adjustments, employ data management tools or make the decision to accept an overage.
In addition, the dashboard provides information about how much data various applications are using. New analytics tools provide information monthly, which makes it easier to determine root causes of data overages and identify anomalies.
Providing passengers with fast, reliable, always-available in-flight Wi-Fi is a basic requirement these days. Honeywell Forge can help operators create a great passenger-connectivity experience every flight without the burden of unplanned overages.