Danish-based Satcom1 is developing systems based on Inmarsat’s Swift 64 and SwiftBroadband satcoms to allow passengers aboard VIP aircraft to communicate with the ground via their own mobile phones and BlackBerry-type devices. The offering forms part of the company’s AvioIP portfolio of communications services.
“We have carried out installations on a Boeing BBJ and on VIP versions of the Airbus A330 and A340 airliners,” says Satcom1 technical manager Jean-Francois Gault. “And we are talking to Dassault Falcon business jet operators who want the capability on their Falcon 2000s and 900s – we expect first installations before the end of the year.”
Satcom1 is also in discussions with a number of airlines and is working with five completion centres, including Swiss outfitting specialist Jet Aviation Basel which recently won the first contracts to provide luxury interiors for VIP versions of the Boeing 787 twin-jet.
“We have two complementary solutions based on a wireless LAN in the aircraft cabin,” says Gault. “For the first we provide the user with a BlackBerry Curve personal digital assistant and SIM card. This can communicate via WiFi with the Inmarsat Aero terminal on the aircraft to support incoming and outgoing voice calls, text messaging and BlackBerry push email.”
Under the other approach, the user keeps his own SIM card and installs it in a mobile phone or PDA selected from a list of compatible devices. The phone can then be used to make and receive voice calls in flight. “The process is completely transparent to anyone calling the user from the ground,” comments Gault.
The required aircraft equipment, which can support several phones simultaneously, comprises NAT Seattle’s JetLAN AR250 server/wireless router and an Inmarsat Aero H+, Swift 64 or SwiftBroadband installation. The first arrangement has just been successfully tested on the BBJ, Gault says, and both solutions have been validated with Swift 64 and Aero H+.