Oi! ARINC set to introduce Internet access by end-year
IT and communications service provider ARINC said today that the first application of its Oi onboard Internet software could be in service by the end of the year.
Oi is designed to exploit the 432kbit/sec-per-channel bandwidth of the Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satcoms service to deliver managed Internet and private network access, news services, email and instant messaging to passenger laptops and in-seat IFE screens.
According to Andy Hubbard, director of aviation solutions for ARINC in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the first operational application of Oi could be in service aboard a business jet before the year is out. “We have already been approached by a number of corporate operators,” he said.
He also anticipated significant progress with the airlines: “We have some very big airline programmes under way. The first implementation on an airliner is due in the fourth quarter of this year. The first line-fit on a new aircraft is set for November-December, and flight trials will begin in the first quarter of next year.”
Oi centres on a Web portal hosted on the aircraft’s cabin server and made accessible to in-seat screens and passenger laptops by both wired and wireless networks. A clear, user-friendly selection of screens allows the passenger to select among a range of offerings, including Internet and corporate network access, Webmail, instant messaging, live news and sport, podcasts and airline information. The service will be open to both Mac and PC laptops, and the user will not have to load any special software.
The look and functionality of Oi are designed to make the most of the bandwidth provided by SwiftBroadband. Unlike earlier efforts with other satellite technologies to offer unmetered Internet access, Oi is a managed connectivity service that will encourage users to make economical use of the available communications capacity. Based on a standard two-channel SwiftBroadband installation, that capacity is expected to be enough to mimic the ADSL connections used in many homes and offices.
Oi is one of three connectivity programmes in which ARINC has an interest. The company partnered with Norwegian mobile phone company Telenor to create onboard cellphone provider AeroMobile, and with Rockwell Collins in the SKYLink/eXchange Ku-band satellite passenger broadband service for business aviation.
Hubbard explained that AeroMobile would maintain its focus on services for mobile phones and BlackBerry-type devices while ARINC would use Oi to address aircraft operators seeking full-scale Internet access. “We will of course work together to meet the requirements of individual airlines if they want both capabilities,” he said. “But there’s no exclusivity – each of us can deal separately with the airlines.”
Managed from ARINC headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland, the SKYLink service is supported by satellite capacity, ground infrastructure and onboard equipment supplied by ViaSat of California. The latter is now rapidly setting up as a service provider in its own right, but ARINC is undismayed. “The emergence of competition from ViaSat proves the market for Ku-band solutions,” James Hardie, European manager of the ARINC Direct package of business aviation services, commented today. “It shows that people need that level of connectivity.”