Details of 787 connectivity RFI revealed

“What is your ability to support delivery on the 787 in the 3rd quarter 2011?”

That’s one of the questions being asked by Boeing in a request for information (RFI) for an Inmarsat SwiftBroadband-supported satcom interface and onboard mobile telephony installation for the 787.

NOTE: The RFI, obtained by yours truly, is, by nature of the definition, an information-gathering vehicle. It is not a request for proposals. Ya’ll know the difference, but its worth underscoring that point.

Also, I asked Boeing for comment and it declined, saying: “We do not comment on RFIs and have no additional comment to offer.”

Key info from my Flightglobal article:

SwiftBroadband coverage.jpgBoeing’s preferred solution for installation of an onboard mobile telephony system (OMTS) is to have it integrated with the IFE system.

As a minimum Boeing would like to see all server and control functions integrated into existing IFE components.

As part of the RFI, Boeing will also evaluate a non-integrated or standalone OMTS solution.

Boeing is also evaluating multiple SwiftBroadband architectures, and asks that respondents to the RFI address the integration of these architectures and any issues, limitation or benefits their system would have with the different architectures. (The pic above shows Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband global coverage.) 

For an integrated IFE/OMTS system, Boeing wants to know what services will be offered – voice, data, SMS, send/receive, web, email or other.

It also wants a detailed system/design architecture, saying “incorporation of OMTS on the 787 will follow current and future ARINC 824 industry standards”.

Key info not in my initial story (because as RWG readers you’re special…seriously):

The Boeing RFI says that, for an integrated IFE/OMTS system, Boeing assumes a leaky feeder coax antenna system will be used for the OMTS. It also says the 787 programme would prefer to utilize a leaky feeder antenna system that also supports Wi-Fi.

With regard the SwiftBroadband system interface, Boeing asks: “Would your system interface with a SwiftBroadband system as the off-board link (i.e. IP-based)?” The airframer says its preferred method is PPPoE (streaming or back ground) and the OMTS must have an Ethernet based interface to a broadband off-board system and digital communication circuits with voice priority.

The airframer also wants to know how many simultaneous calls respondents can support and how much dedicated bandwidth is required.

But let’s get back to that key question:

What is your ability to support delivery on the 787 in the 3rd quarter 2011, asks Boeing in its RFI.

Jiminy cricket! Please tell me that Boeing will get passenger connectivity on board the 787 sooner than that. Because if it doesn’t, won’t those initial deliveries, now scheduled for 4Q 2010, look less than state-of-the-art?

It is worth noting that Boeing is gathering info on an in-flight mobile connectivity service, despite the fact that the USA doesn’t permit the in-flight usage of cell phones!!!

It is also worth noting that there are, at present, two main providers in the mobile connectivity sector – Arinc/Telenor partnership AeroMobile and Airbus/SITA JV OnAir.

And, it is also worth noting that, should Boeing take the SwiftBroadband path, it won’t be the first to do so. Airbus’ airline network architecture ALNA v2 is a multi-programme, scalable and modular platform that enables an onboard mobile telephone system and light Internet via SwiftBroadband. (Does Airbus look ahead of the curve or what?)

Oman Air is getting the first ALNA v2-equipped widebody on 27 November. The carrier will offer OnAir mobile services. I told you that bird would be special.

And good gracious, but isn’t that a lot of noteworthy stuff?

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3 Responses to Details of 787 connectivity RFI revealed

  1. JayPee October 28, 2009 at 3:15 am #

    Hi Mary,

    maybe that 3rd quarter 2011 date is when Boeing truly expects to deliver their first 787!?

  2. MMS October 28, 2009 at 9:11 am #

    Hi Mary,

    What if an airline wants a Ku solution? Is Boeing taking this into account?

    Thanks for the scoop…

    MMS

  3. Mary Kirby October 28, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    That’s the million dollar question, MMS. SBB-supported connectivity has a number of things going for it that Boeing might find attractive considering the programme’s lengthy delay.

    SBB is a viable solution in operation today (on Ryanair’s 737s, for instance) and it is being rolled out on Airbus long-haul aircraft.

    If Boeing needs to make a decision quickly – and can’t afford further delays or setbacks to the programme – it may choose to go with a here-and-now solution.

    I’m hearing that everything is leaning towards L-band at this juncture (not confirmed, however).

    That said, there is nothing stopping Boeing from issuing an RFI/RFP for Ku (and you can be sure that Panasonic, Row 44 and others would be happy to respond).

    Boeing could very well make both SBB and Ku linefit offerable on the 787 down the road.

    But, as one source ponts out, Boeing could face challenges in getting a Ku band antenna installed on the composite airframe, and it won’t be as simple as drilling new mounting holes and bolting it on.

    My source also suggests that we consider the problems with the composite fuselage sections that have already delayed the 787 program and think how much motivation Boeing has to start messing around with the airframe any time soon.

    A key part of the RFI is that the chosen provider must integrate with the IFE platform.

    Although Panasonic prefers Ku, it is well-versed in Inmarsat-supported services, and, frankly, its partner AeroMobile looks very well placed to respond in a robust fashion to this RFI.

    Thales, as you are no doubt aware, is putting its eggs in the SBB basket, and works with Airbus/SITA JV OnAir (Would Boeing adopt an Airbus solution? That would be interesting).