Earlier this year, US technology firm Ambit Corp filed a lawsuit against Delta Air Lines and Aircell claiming patent infringement regarding the provision of Internet access onboard aircraft.
I debated whether to report on this event and ultimately decided to write this erudite paragraph, ahem:
Marsha, I mean Aircell, Aircell, Aircell. With all the news about Aircell, you might be wondering - what's up with Ambit's lawsuit against Aircell? Whose lawsuit? Ambit of course! If you want more details, I can dredge them up for ya. But, from what I hear, folks are not giving too much credence to this suit. Yeah, yeah, I know. Famous last words, right? Aircell says it does not comment on pending legislation. But I'm going to hazard a guess that Aircell did it's homework on this one.Whether the suit has merit or not is beside the point right now. Why is that RWG?
Firstly, the legal action is still in play. Ambit president and co-founder Robert Crowley confirmed that much for me this morning. He declined further comment.
Secondly, I'm hearing that at least one airframer, Bombardier, is holding off on offering Aircell's air-to-ground (ATG)-based high-speed Internet system on its business aircraft until the case is settled.
As I reported in Flight magazine, two Learjet 60XRs equipped with Aircell's SwiftBroadband (SBB) solution - one outfitted in Bombardier's new "Red" interior and the other labelled "Black" - were on static display at the annual National Business Aviation Association meeting and convention in Orlando, Florida on 20-22 October (look closely at the pic above and you'll see the SBB antenna).
These birds were formerly destined for Jet Republic, which placed the largest ever SBB order and then went out of business (I am not suggesting one had anything to do with the other...cheeky monkey!).
A source on the ground at NBAA says Bombardier informed people at its booth that it is waiting to see how the Aircell patent lawsuit plays out before offering the ATG system on its business aircraft.
Needless to say, on hearing this bit of information, I knocked on everyone's door for comment.
Bombardier said only the following: "We haven't announced a supplier for connectivity."
A spokesman at Aircell's business aircraft division said: "On your question, unfortunately Aircell isn't able to comment on litigation or discussions that take place with its customers."
He did point out, however, that Aircell has scored some nice wins of late, including the newly-announced Hawker Beechcraft selection and a huge deal with Flight Options.
I also tapped Aircell's commercial side for comment (since Delta is named in the suit, and logic would dictate that if Ambit has a problem with Delta it might very well have a problem with other Gogo-equipped carriers).
A spokesman at Aircell's commercial division said: "Aircell cannot comment on pending litigation."
For more information about this case, read the following documents.
Ambit suit 2.pdf
So, is Ambit's lawsuit against Aircell starting to bite? And is it time to take notice?
One industry insider, upon learning of the case in February, told me the following:
...the development is as surprising as it is disturbing, since it may be extended to other satellite-based aeronautical communications applications (e.g., GSM picocell) given its broad language and other mobile applications (e.g., maritime and land mobile) since the patent focuses on "vehicles" of all types.