Aircell reveals plan to offer Ka- and Ku-band in-flight Internet

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Aircell has thrown its hat into the international arena for in-flight high-speed Internet by announcing plans to ultimately offer a global Ka-band satellite-based connectivity solution to operators, while making a Ku-band solution available to its airline partners in the interim.

The Chicago-headquartered firm, whose Gogo air-to-ground (ATG)-supported high-speed Internet solution has been fitted to myriad aircraft flying in the continental United States, will face competition from Ku-band connectivity providers Panasonic Avionics and Row 44, which are also looking to eventually provide solutions based on Ka-band technology.

Revealing its long-awaited technology roadmap today, Aircell said it will offer a regional Ka-band service covering the continental United States in 2013 and a global solution by 2015. That is the year that a superfast global Ka-band service called Global Xpress is anticipated to be available from L-band satellite leader Inmarsat.

In the interim, Aircell says it can provide a Ku-band-based satellite solution for the international needs of its airline partners. Further details about Aircell's Ku offering - and the status of its regulatory clearances - are not immediately known.

Aircell has also announced plans to boost its current air-to-ground (ATG)-based Gogo offering in the United States.

At present, Gogo features 3G wireless utilising EV-DO Rev. A technology. Aircell's new service, dubbed ATG-4, "will significantly enhance the existing ATG network and improve per aircraft capacity by approximately four times current performance through the addition of directional antenna, dual modem and EV-DO Rev. B technologies", says the firm, which will roll out ATG-4 in the first half of next year.

"This new platform is backward compatible and allows for upgrades to existing ATG systems through low cost retrofits," adds Aircell.

"Between business and commercial aviation, there are currently more than 6,000 Aircell-equipped aircraft across ATG and satellite technology platforms," says Aircell president and CEO Michael Small in a statement.

"We're thrilled to be the only in-flight connectivity provider that can meet our partners' full fleet needs in the United States today. With this announcement we strengthen our offerings domestically and begin to extend our leadership globally."

Panasonic customer Lufthansa and Row 44 customer Southwest Airlines are among the carriers offering Ku-band-supported connectivity to passengers.