announces the successful completion of its extended airborne demonstration program that allowed potential airline customers and others to experience the AirCell Broadband System's technology in flight.
Targeted for commercial deployment in 2007, the AirCell Broadband System will enable airline passengers to use their own Wi-Fi and cellular devices such as laptops, PDAs, phones and Blackberries in a fully integrated wireless cabin over an affordable, broadband air-to-ground link.
Because the system uses standardized equipment and a direct air-to-ground link, its installation and operating costs will be a fraction of similar systems that use satellites. This will finally enable U.S. airlines to provide the connectivity their passengers are demanding -- at prices very similar to what they pay on the ground.
"The AirCell Broadband System is really the first viable system for the U.S. market," stated Jack W. Blumenstein, AirCell Chairman and CEO. "If you look at what our demonstration program achieved technologically and consider the applications we'll enable for airlines and travelers, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. During the demonstration flights, it was exciting to watch people experience the system for the first time and hear them come up with more and more ways they could use it."
Since the AirCell Broadband System supports all the most common Wi-Fi and cellular standards, passengers can use a wide variety of applications, many of which were sampled by passengers aboard AirCell's demonstration aircraft. "E-mail over Wi-Fi was perfect," commented one passenger. "The speed was DSL-like and e-mail and Internet surfing worked flawlessly."
Participants also made VoIP phone calls using handsets and over their laptops using Skype
. They used a Slingbox
, a simple device enabling them to watch their home TV live from their PC. Passengers logged into their corporate VPNs to access e-mail and company directories. They watched live news, entertainment, and sporting event broadcasts. They called friends and colleagues, checked their voice mails, and even updated their return airline reservations from aboard the demo aircraft.
A vice president from a domestic, low-cost airline noted, "We've always been intrigued by the concept of airborne wireless broadband, but the satellite-based systems just aren't viable for our fleet in North America." He continued: "What AirCell is doing with their system changes everything -- it provides the speed and capabilities you need at a cost that's very workable. This opens up a world of potential applications for internal airline operations as well as passengers."
One airline industry observer noted the modularity of AirCell's system and commented on an airline's ability to select the specific connectivity features they offer. "By providing almost every ground-based connection option (CDMA, GSM, Wi-Fi) and the means to control it, the AirCell approach would let airlines choose their solution to in-flight telephony," stated Terry Wiseman, Publisher, AIRFAX.com. "Choice is the operable word here."
Airline executives also predicted that since passengers will bring their own hardware and have wireless access to the internet, AirCell Broadband will become a very important aspect of an airline's ability to entertain and inform its passengers in-flight. Passengers get exactly what they want, and the airline isn't forced into being a perpetual programmer and equipment provider.
AirCell has accumulated hundreds of hours of hands-on flight test experience with airborne wireless broadband, and the just-completed demonstration program marked a number of important technological firsts achieved by the company.
- The first end-to-end demonstration of wireless broadband using a direct air-to-ground link
- The first use of advanced wireless technology for a broadband air-to-ground link
- The first support of CDMA, GSM, VoIP and Wi-Fi over a common air-to-ground pipe
- The smallest broadband antenna ever used in aviation (weighs 5 ounces; 4" tall)
- The highest speeds, altitudes and distances ever reached for EVDO technology
"We accomplished a great deal, to the amazement of the ground-based wireless community, who had no idea all this could be done so effectively using AirCell's expertise applying advanced cellular technology to the airborne environment," said Joe M. Cruz, AirCell Vice President, Engineering, and CTO.
Key Demonstration System Details
The flight demonstration program showcased an advanced technology prototype of the AirCell Broadband System. Key demonstration system components and technical features included:
AirCell's Background in Airborne Cellular
- A Broadband Air-to-Ground Link that uses custom-designed EVDO wireless technology. The link provides a high-speed connection directly from the aircraft to the ground, delivering a "to-the-seat" user experience similar to a DSL link on the ground.
- A Cabin Telecommunications Router (CTR) that provides a high-speed, in-cabin hotspot for Wi-Fi-equipped devices (802.11b/g) including Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones.
- Multiple Cabin Picocells supporting CDMA and GSM voice communications for commercial cell phones.
AirCell remains the only company ever to receive regulatory approval to use cellular frequencies for airborne telecommunications. Having operated its own terrestrial network in the United States for many years, AirCell has more patents and experience applying cellular technology in the airborne environment than any organization in the world.
Building on its success, the company is now leveraging this unique experience in developing its next generation of airborne connectivity -- bringing affordable broadband voice and data services to airline passengers. Operating over a new, next-generation digital network in North America, the AirCell Broadband System is targeted for commercial deployment in 2007. Pending the acquisition of a spectrum license from the FCC, the AirCell network will initially cover the continental U.S. and will be expandable to include Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
For more information about the AirCell Broadband System, contact Bill Peltola, AirCell Vice President, Sales and Marketing, at 303-379-0230.