Expert Opinion: Is it really a business jet if it has no internet connection?
When traveling abroad, understanding a few basic foreign language phrases can go a long way in making it a better experience, versus not having any at all.
The same goes for internet in a business jet – even having a little bit of connectivity makes it a better experience, compared to not having it at all. In fact, many newcomers to a business jet – the very people who will drive future demand for aircraft – are a surprised to find that many aircraft don’t automatically come with some kind of internet connection.
So what is the range of your aircraft connectivity options? What’s the connectivity metaphor to knowing a few phrases, versus being a United Nations linguist? Here’s a quick breakdown of the options available today.
If you need the basics
Iridium SATCOM – Iridium is a constellation of Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites that give worldwide coverage for voice services but with lower bandwidth data rates. Most aircraft can take advantage of Iridium SATCOM using a blade-mounted antenna. While this solution is versatile and relatively low cost, the low bandwidth will limit connectivity options to telephone calls and text messaging only.
If you need a little more bandwidth
Inmarsat Swift Broadband – This is currently one of the more popular and capable systems. Using a geo-stationary constellation of Inmarsat’s I-4 satellites, this option is a versatile and higher-bandwidth solution that supports a variety of internet activities across a wide variety of aircraft. Depending on the antenna fit (blade or steerable dish), data rates can get from 200 to 432kbps, or nearly 0.5Mbps. Streaming media is possible, but some smart things have to be done in the router to bond channels together and increase available speed. Router management can also increase capabilities by enabling compression software to improve efficient throughput. Because it provides safety services, SBB is a complementary solution to the options below.
If you have more passengers on board
Yonder Ku and 2Ku – The Yonder Ku option leverages the same collection of geostationary high-bandwidth satellites used for broadcast television, allowing for “office in the sky” applications. The high bandwidth allows you to send and receive email, establish VPN connections, stream video and participate in video conferencing. The Yonder Ku antenna fits larger business aircraft with room to accommodate a 30cm antenna, while the fuselage-mounted 2Ku antenna solution is used almost exclusively in air transport. This is a capable solution to consider with some limitations when transiting oceans.
If you’re traveling globally with multiple passengers
Inmarsat Ka band – Branded as JX (or Jet ConneX) in business aviation, Ka-band is made available via a worldwide platform of recently launched I-5 satellites. JX offers The highest bandwidth quoted for the satellites is up to 50Mbps, and a typical business jet antenna can expected rates of up to 15Mbps. This high-speed connectivity will allow more devices to be in use on board an aircraft at the same time.
Let’s face it. Today the world – and your passengers – speak through and with the internet. Ask yourself: will your passengers want to fly in your aircraft if it doesn’t speak their language?
James Hardie is responsible for Rockwell Collins ARINCDirect services across Europe, Middle East and Africa, and the Asia Pacific regions. ARINCDirect was established in the USA in 2003 to provide direct access for business jet operators to ARINC communication services. Additional services, such as flight planning, were quickly established and continue to be developed.
He took responsibility for the ARINCDirect business development in EMEA in early 2006 and has worked with various flight departments around the world providing and developing products and services to meet their needs. Now part of the Rockwell Collins IMS business unit, he has worked for ARINC for over 15 years and has been involved in various projects related to airline and business aircraft operations and communications. He also has a background as a pilot with a CPL(A) and military helicopter experience.