Potential anti-trust contentions seen as stumbling block for deployment progress

Prospects of a potential collaboration between global air/ground communications network providers Arinc and Sita on the deployment of the digital VHF datalink Mode 2 (VDL-2) technology are fading fast. Sita vice-president of aircraft communications George Cooper says the only reason for co-operation is to provide lower-cost services at a time when airlines need savings.

However, Cooper says potential anti-trust issues and internal changes at Arinc could be hindering progress. Arinc says the primary area of co-operation would be provision of a VDL-2 communication network for Eurocontrol's Maastricht air traffic control centre in the Netherlands, which Eurocontrol wants up and running by May for early operational trials with SAS and Lufthansa aircraft. Eurocontrol only wants a contract with one provider, but considered it logical that the provision could be made via a joint Arinc/Sita network, rather than each having to provide a separate 1,400 ground-station network.

While both have already been forced to invest separately in research and development for VDL-2, Sita believes there are still savings to be had in setting up the ground stations. VDL-2 technology will replace the current aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS) network with a faster, high-capacity air/ground link, and simultaneously provide air traffic controllers with controller/pilot datalink communications (CPDLC) (Flight International, 11-17 February).

Sources attending last week's Jane's ATC Maastricht Conference indicated that anti-trust considerations might not be the only issue hindering Arinc/Sita network collaboration, citing "internal changes" in Arinc - possibly concerned with the sale of shares in the company - which Arinc itself has forecast.

This may be linked to the fact that in Europe the airlines that own Sita are not in such a dire financial position as the major US carriers that own Arinc, which would make it logical for Arinc to seek external investment.

Source: Flight International