DN - Defence Notes

ViaSat, LiveTV fire connectivity warning shots

25th January 2009 - 13:38 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Two of the emerging connectivity providers have underlined the strength of their determination to get into the market. ViaSat has announced an extension to its Ku-band satellite coverage, while LiveTV has provided details of the airborne radio that will support its Kiteline email service.

Californian-based ViaSat supplies satellite communications systems and services to a wide variety of civil and government markets. It first came to the attention of the civil aviation community as the supplier of airborne equipment and satellite networking services for SKYLink, ARINC’s broadband offering to business-jet operators. But in the last year it has declared an ambition to become a global service provider in its own right to both business aviation and air transport.

ViaSat and its Rhode Island-headquartered maritime partner KVH Industries say they have just rolled out North Pacific coverage for their dual-purpose aeronautical/maritime broadband network. The new coverage area includes Alaska, the west coasts of Canada and the United States, Hawaii and the east coast of Asia. The network, capable of supporting Internet access and voice services, also spans Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean, the North Atlantic, and North America and the Caribbean.

“We have now successfully rolled out a single, unified broadband service across roughly two-thirds of the world’s major shipping and aeronautical lanes,” says KVH chief executive Martin Kits van Heyningen. “Our goal this year is to complete the network.”

ViaSat’s proprietary ArcLight hub-and-spoke network technology has been supporting SKYLink since early 2005. In that time the 80 equipped aircraft, most of them long-range Gulfstreams, have together logged more than 100,000 hours online, according to ViaSat. On the aircraft a 12in-diameter mechanically steered antenna works with leased Ku-band satellite capacity to support advertised speeds to the aircraft of up to 10Mbit/sec and 512kbit/sec in the opposite direction, on the ground, during taxiing and in flight.

Florida-based LiveTV is working to introduce Kiteline, a new narrowband instant messaging and email service for airline passengers in North America. Based on the company’s 1MHz of ATG spectrum and the former Verizon ground network, the service has been selected by LiveTV parent company JetBlue, plus Continental and Frontier Airlines, and is due to go operational this year.

The company has selected Spectrum Signal Processing of British Columbia to supply software-defined radios (SDRs) for installation in customer aircraft. The radios will support not only Kiteline but also the MagnaStar voice service for the general aviation market, which LiveTV has been running since the beginning of the month.

“Spectrum provides the complete radio solution that we have been looking for, and at a competitive price,” says Mike Lynch, LiveTV’s VP of connectivity engineering. “SDR technology will give our airline customers a range of upgradeable services that will enable them to differentiate themselves from their competitors. SDR is especially well suited to the maintenance and upgrade of services in a fleet environment.”

Passengers will use an onboard WiFi network to connect to the Kiteline system, which will route the traffic over the Spectrum-supplied radio to LiveTV's ground network. The radio is reprogrammable, enabling LiveTV to roll out additional features and update the system via software alone.

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