EMS Satcom bags first airline connectivity order

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Canada's EMS Satcom (Hall 3, D7B) announced today that its eNfusion HSD-128 Inmarsat-based high-speed satellite data terminal has been chosen by Australian applications developer ASiQ as part of the inflight passenger connectivity system it has developed for Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Saudi Arabian is the second carrier, after Iberia, to commit to equipping a full fleet for services based on Inmarsat's 64kbit/sec Swift64 and ultimately 432kbit/sec SwiftBroadband services.

Three other leading airlines are known to be on the point of announcing equipment orders.

Core

Though EMS Satcom provides the core technology for the Swift-family avionics marketed to air transport by Honeywell and Rockwell Collins, the Saudi order is the Canadian company's first for an airline application of its own product, which so far has sold well to corporate and military users.

ASiQ has put together an end-to-end broadband communications solution to meet the Saudi carrier's needs. It combines Swift64 with AsiQ's own G3CARS gatelink product, based on the UMTS 432kbit/sec third-generation cellular standard, to produce a system capable of handling significant volumes of data both at the gate and during every phase of flight.

Saudi Arabian is fitting its Boeing 777-200s and 747-400s with EMS Satcom's dual-channel Swift64 avionics, installed alongside the original CMC Electronics dual high-gain antennas and dual Honeywell MCS-6000 classic Inmarsat avionics.

The two Swift64 channels can be bonded to give an aggregate throughput of 128kbit/sec of Internet-compatible packet data. In about 18 months the airline will be able to opt for a software upgrade to SwiftBroadband.

First to be equipped will be the 777-200s, 23 of which are in service with the airline. Nine will be outfitted between the third quarter and the end of this year, with the balance to be equipped next year.

The onboard network will also include ASI's own server, capable of supporting up to 30 simultaneous laptop users via RJ-11 interfaces already wired into every seat on the aircraft, and a control panel and a second server to give users access to inflight communications via the aircraft's existing Panasonic 2000i in-seat IFE system.

Touchscreen

The touchscreen control panel will also be used to manage G3CARS data transfers to and from the aircraft when it is parked at the gate.

G3CARS will be supported by the public infrastructure already provided by Vodafone and Hutchison Telecom at London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Rome Leonardo Da Vinci and Frankfurt airports. Additional ground equipment required for G3CARS comprises antennas installed at selected gates. The UMTS network will be expanded to Saudi Arabia next year, allowing G3CARS data transfers at Riyadh, Dhahran and Jeddah.