A total of 75 aircraft are now commissioned to use the ARINC SKYLink broadband connectivity service for business aviation. Another 45 shipsets of equipment are on order.
“Our agreement with Rockwell Collins at the end of last year has really been a benefit to us because of the sheer number of installations in service and on order,” says Bob Thompson, ARINC’s senior director of satellite services. “We really needed a partner with a strong product support capability. Now they are on board and marketing the airborne equipment under the eXchange brand, we can really focus on the service and the applications.”
Most of the aircraft currently equipped for the megabit-rated service come from Gulfstream, which labels the capability Broad Band Multi-Link (BBML). “But now Rockwell Collins is talking to Bombardier and Dassault,” says Thompson. “That was the other strength we needed – Collins has walk-in rights with those companies whereas I would have to go in and start from scratch.”
SKYLink was launched in 2006 and now covers North America, the North Atlantic and Europe, with service in the Caribbean, Central America and northern South America currently being beta-tested by a number of users.
“We continue to think about other regions, notably the North Pacific and Middle East,” says Thompson. “But we’re in no hurry. Right at the start we recognised that the easiest way to go broke would be to stand up all the regions of the world and hope there would be enough traffic to fill them. Our existing coverage embraces the area in which 75 per cent of all business aircraft flights in the world take place.”
The system is being used for corporate network access, BlackBerry email, high-quality voice over IP (VoIP) and videoconferencing. “VoIP is almost a no-brainer for the operators – the phones are comparatively cheap, they’re wireless and they have all the functionality of a normal cellphone,” says Thompson. “As for videoconferencing, the capability’s easy to install and our megabit pipe supports a very acceptable level of performance.”
ARINC is reporting traffic levels of tens of thousands on minutes per month over the SKYLink network. “Occasionally in the USA we’ve seen up to 50 aircraft logged on simultaneously,” says Thompson. “In Europe we see five to ten aircraft at any time during the business day. And on the North Atlantic we’re averaging 50 to 60 flights a month.”
More news from EBACE 2008