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Can In-flight Connectivity Rival “At Home” Service?


If you’re like most people, you haven’t been in a plane in months. And it may be several more before you get the chance to fly again.

The good news is that when you return to the skies, depending upon who your airline carrier is and where you’re headed, you may have the opportunity to enjoy Wi-Fi service in the air that’s every bit as fast as your Wi-Fi at home. That’s because companies like GDC Technics, Hughes and Thinkom, have been collaborating to redefine in-flight connectivity, so that passengers can enjoy a better, faster internet experience.

Enter the GDC Falcon 300

GDC Technics, working with Hughes, Thinkom and other technology partners, recently debuted its GDC Falcon 300 system. This new Cabin Wireless Connectivity platform, powered by the Hughes JUPITER™ System, is designed to transmit/receive across Ka-band satellites. Incorporated with the JUPITER system is also the Hughes ModMan, a dual high-performance aero modem with a full-featured airborne server. Thinkom’s Ka-2517 phased-array antenna supports connectivity from the plane to the JUPITER 1 (EchoStar XVII) and JUPITER 2 (EchoStar XIX) High-Throughput Satellites.

“Even in an airplane at 35,000 feet, there’s an appetite and expectation for high-speed broadband access, not just for basic tasks like email, but for bandwidth intensive ones, like live video streaming,” said Paul Gaske, executive vice president and general manager, North America Division, Hughes. “Powering this type of anytime, everywhere connectivity is what Hughes is all about.”

In test flights on Hillwood Airways’ Boeing 737-700, the GDC Falcon 300 demonstrated “typical” upload/download speeds of 25Mbps with the ability to provide 150 Mbps or more. These speeds, particularly when delivered in a “gate-to-gate” environment, will help to meet increased expectations, enabling passengers not only to check email, social media, and surf the web, but also join video conference calls and collaborate with colleagues on the ground (or perhaps even colleagues in the air!).

“Our JUPITER System has long been viewed as the de-facto standard for satellite broadband implementation across market verticals, including mobility,” explained Reza Rasoulian, vice president at Hughes. “But JUPITER is now available with advanced mobility support, which means it can enable operator roaming, seamless beam switching, and optimal use of satellite capacity for blazing fast speeds.”

Mr. Rasoulian further explained that, because operators can implement JUPITER to make use of its efficiency, performance, and cost effectiveness, many airlines and even vessel owners will be able to provide on-board Wi-Fi to customers for free. This kind of “Free” or “Freemium” connectivity is one way airlines are differentiating themselves and improving the passenger experience.

“It’s that high-performance connectivity that creates the ideal content-rich, ‘at home’ experience for passengers,” Mr. Rasoulian added.

Click here for more information about the Hughes JUPITER System and aeronautical applications.