The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics is heralding its recent ICSSC 2010 Aeronautical Broadband Panel as a great success with "better-than-expected" attendance despite the concurrent sessions including the Space 2010 plenary session. Apparently, the panel was quite "lively" and gave thought-provoking presentations. But what about the audience?
"The feedback from the audience was invaluable as this audience widely represented the satellite broadband industry. It was well worth our effort. The consensus was that the demand for aeronautical mobile bandwidth would grow exponentially over the next several years driven by the same trend on the ground. We must deliver increasingly large bandwidth cost-effectively," says Nubron general manager Brian B.K. Min, who moderated the panel
Here is what went down care of Brian (I've bolded the stuff I find somewhat interesting, definitely interesting or very interesting):
Brian, as moderator, stated the synopsis and introduced the panelists. He outlined the current status of commercial aeronautical broadband, namely, the Ku-band, L-band, and upcoming Ka-band systems vs. the terrestrial network systems. He then proposed the topics for the session to cover both the business and technical aspects of the satellite aeronautical broadband, challenging the panel: is it time and is there a path to system convergence?
Bruce R. Elbert, Application Technology Strategy Inc. discussed the results of his In-Flight Broadband Survey of Systems and Applications. He discussed the key technical issues, characteristic connection speeds, and the advertised pricing of Boeing CbB (now defunct), Aircell GoGo®, Inmarsat SwiftBroadband, Row44, and Panasonic eXConnect. He concluded that GoGo® is achieving brand recognition and a degree of acceptance while satellite-based services face more challenges as both become viable businesses.
John Craig, Boeing, described how Boeing is looking at a common on-board network that leverages all the communication channels for all the users on the airplane. The classic avionics paradigm separating the flight operations, airline operations, and passenger connectivity must evolve to integrated network connectivity. He then discussed some of the challenges with Network Security and enabling the airline to leverage different service providers to utilize the service.
Greg Montevideo, Panasonic Avionics, described Panasonic's bold efforts to advance aeronautical broadband service: the Global Communications Suite that includes eXConnect high speed in-flight Internet access system, eXPhone GSM phone for voice, SMS, and data services, and eXTV a global television network. By the fourth quarter of 2010, a Ku-band quasi-global coverage is expected. What matters to Panasonic are the big pipes available globally and priced right. Panasonic is closely monitoring the development of Ka-band technology and its business model.
William F. Sullivan, ViaSat, described ViaSat's YonderSM mobile broadband service/offering. With 200+ aircraft and 700+ vessels, and 55+ high speed rails, that is the largest Ku-band service today with expanding coverage, quasi-global coverage being expected in the second quarter of 2011. He then moved to a more focused look at ViaSat's emerging Ka-band aeronautical service offering that is expected to fundamentally alter the economics for aeronautical broadband, to meet the exponential growth in demand for mobile broadband driven by the new generation of user terminals such as iPhones, Droid phones, and iPads.
Mike Moeller, LiveTVTM, was absent because of a family emergency but Brian Min read Mike's presentation. Mike described the Iridium OpenPort® solution featuring 128 Kbps IP connection "always on" and 3 voice channels, "hat" size antenna that fits under small radome or collocated with Ku-band antenna, and standard terminal weighing less than 25lbs. First flight is expected in the 4th quarter 2010 on commercial aircraft. It boasts true global coverage and lowest cost hardware although the bandwidth is limited. IridiumNext will provide the path to an increased bandwidth.
Thus the panel did describe various current and upcoming services delivering increased bandwidth at more affordable prices. In particular, the emerging Ku/Ka-band systems were described to fundamentally alter the economics of aeronautical broadband delivery. An intense and lively interaction with the audience then followed.
With time running out, Brian briefly summarized the session and concluded that the increasingly important bandwidth growth requirement and the terrestrial network competition are the two big pictures that emerged from this session. We are in an exciting period for the aeronautical broadband, which warrants our meeting again in the near future to review the progress.
Is there a holy grail? We have not answered this question yet but indicated that the path to the holy grail, if any, is to meet both the exponentially growing bandwidth demand and the airlines business expectations. The terrestrial network has already made strong inroads in the U.S. continent, albeit with a limited bandwidth. Thus satellite technology and terrestrial network will coexist by dividing the business sectors, at least for now. It remains to be seen whether any satellite systems, particularly the emerging Ku/Ka-band systems, will be able to overcome the terrestrial network advantages.
Thanks for the breakdown Brian! Boeing, don't you think it's time to refresh that presentation?
(Satellites beware picture above from Joe Hasting's Flickr photo stream)