Arnav Systems is allying with GlobalStar to fill the gap in the low-cost satellite communications (satcom) market left by the failure of Iridium earlier this year.

Oregon-based Arnav is developing airborne equipment that will allow corporate and general aviation users to access GlobalStar's 48 satellites in low earth orbit, which provide coverage from 70íN to 70íS, says vice-president Sue Hamner.

Arnav's satcom system will use the standard Qualcomm GlobalStar handset, which will be docked while in flight. Voice will be routed over the intercom to the pilot's headset, while data will be presented on a multi-function display.

On the ground, the handset can be undocked and used as a hand-held satellite telephone or, in the USA and Japan, as a cellphone.

Two systems are planned: voice and data for $10,000 and data-only for $7,000, with certification due in the second half of next year. Plans are to charge $49 a month and $1.89/min for the general aviation market, while corporate users will pay $495 a month for 350min and $1.65/min thereafter. "This is competitive with cellular, but is global," says Hamner.

Arnav is targeting the same low-cost satcom market identified by AlliedSignal (now Honeywell) for its Iridium-based Airsat 1 system.

Following the collapse of Iridium, Honeywell has agreed to take back all Airsat 1 systems and credit the purchase price towards another of the company's satcom systems. The likely replacement is its newly certificated SCS-1000, a $40,000 single-channel system using Inmarsat-3 satellites.

Arnav, meanwhile, plans to use the GlobalStar alliance to extend the reach of its graphical weather uplink, now available in the USA via the company's growing VHF data-link network. Hamner says the company also plans to offer services via AirCell's airborne cellular communications system.

AirCell, with its US network 75% complete, has entered a strategic alliance with cabin entertainment and information systems specialist Airshow.

Source: Flight International