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Connectivity in Aircrafts

What makes a Private Jet a real business center?

Today, life revolves around connectivity. Work, communication, recreation, sociability, and interaction is defined by our connectivity in technology. So, when customers hire private jets, their main concern with the trip is not the speed of the aircraft or the altitude that the plane will reach.  What they want and ask for is:

Do we have a Wi-Fi on board?

What are the speed and wideband of the internet?

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Either in a commercial airline or a private jet, we all know how poor the internet is on a flight. Usually, a simple task to go through our emails, download information into the mobiles, laptops or any other devices, could be a road to pure frustration. The pages take ages to open. The same with messages and photos. Forget about video streaming.

So, what makes a jet a real business center? The answer is simple: interconnectivity.

Costumers expect that once on board, they will continue to chat, text, call, stream, game, sustain multi conferences and keep on track with their everyday work just as they would in their ground offices.

Of course, this demand is forcing companies (that don´t want to be left behind) to gear up their fleets. However, to equip an aircraft with the right wireless internet service is not an easy task. The main problem rest in the existing technology. In other words, the Wi-Fi onboard system still has a long road to go.

How does it work the internet on board?

We do not want to get too deep into the technological explanations for an onboard internet. So, for this article, we are using the explanation given by “Captain JOE” on YouTube, which we found the most comprehensive and easy to follow.

Before getting into some detail, it is essential to know the basics.

There should exist a base internet service on the ground.

    • The ground base service transmits the signals through a networking tower (that look like mobile towers) or works with satellite dishes positioned on the ground.
  • The net ground system, then, connects with the satellites and aircraft.

The equipment need it in the aircraft

    • The aircraft is equipped with a receiving and transmitting antennas that pick up the signals.
  • Also, onboard service equipment is installed in the aircraft, with a router to spread the signals among the users, when flying.

Let`s continue with saying that three existing technologies provide the internet on a flight.

The ATG System –

ATG stands for Air To Ground transmission. It works as follow:

First, the aircraft has an ATG antenna. The ATG System uses network towers to transmit the signals.  When the aircraft flies above the towers, immediately, the antennas in the aircraft pick up the signals from the towers and activates the ATG System, allowing the transmission data into the aircraft. So, the passengers can start using the mobiles or any electronics devises to receive or send emails and massagers.

One of the most obvious disadvantages is that the towers are on the ground. When the plane flights above the ocean, there is no signal to pick up.

Another drawback is that the internet SPEED is inferior; about three megabits per second, comparing to the 4G LTE mobile phone that we get on the ground (30 to 40 megabits per second). Therefore, it is not much to do with the electronic devices, except to go through emails and send WhatsApp messages.

There are other issues related to this technology but, as we already mentioned, we suggest to follow the link to Captain JOE´s video which is easy to understand.

Satellite base Ku band service –

The Satellite base KU Band system have the same basics that the ATG System. The difference is that the ground base transmits the signal straight to a satellite in space.

The symbol Ku is short for “K-under” (originally German: Kurz-unten), because it is the lower part of the original NATO K band, which was split into three bands (Ku, K, and Ka). The Ku Band works with a range of frequency that goes from 12 to 18 GHz.

The satellite sends the signal straight to the aircraft´s antenna, where the onboard service process it and then, is transmitted to the router.  

The Ku band service is a much faster system that the ATG; about 40 megabits per second in SPEED, which is good. The disadvantage, especially in commercial airlines, is that planes are full of passengers (about 200 hundred or more, depending on the aircraft) and all of then connect at the same time to the same router. So, there is a lack of WIDEBAND to support the demand on a commercial aircraft. It can also be added that when there are several aircraft flying nearby, with the same volume of passengers on board, well, the signal gets jammed because is one satellite to serve them all.

Another important disadvantage is the delay in the signal. With the ATG System, the signal goes from the ATG towers straight to the aircraft. The Ku band System is a slow process of data transmission because the signal has to travel from the ground to the satellite in space and then to the plane. So, there is not much use for streaming videos which are delayed because of the process.

Satellite base Ka band service –

The Ka Band is the faster wireless technology available for airlines. To make it simple, the Ka Band works with an upper frequency, above the NATO frequency band, at 20 to 36 GHz.

The KA Satellite is considered more upgraded than the KU Satellite. One of the providers, ViaSat, can guarantee up to a 70-megabit speed per second for each aircraft. This kind of speed allows uploading photos on social media platforms and stream videos. The provider also has two satellites — one covering the US and another satellite covering Canada and part of Europe.

For more detail information, follow the link of “Captain JOE.”

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With this in mind, is understandable why airlines and private jets companies are in a constant search for the best technology to install wireless internet. But also, an additional important factor that is part of this equation is the provider. Global communication companies are maintaining a taught race to create the technology that will improve connectivity in the air, and 2019 promise an exciting year.

Now, like we are focusing on private jets, we will only mention a one case provider is almost single handling the Wi-Fi for the private jets companies: Inmarsat Jet ConnX Solutions. The reason is that the company has close negotiation to installs Wi-Fi with airplanes’ manufactures as Gulfstream, Bombardier, Dassault, and Embraer.  The technology they use is a satellite net system using Ka band.

There is no doubt that in 2019, there would be a new fleet of smart private jets ready to fly the world and connect people.

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