Gulfstream, Rockwell Collins Get Wired

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Some say there are two kinds of people: those who want to be able to check their e-mail or AVweb's latest news while at FL450 over Kansas, and those who don't. Until recently, the technology to access the Internet was both slow in coming and slow in operation -- it probably had something to do with dragging all that telephone cable aloft. Nowadays, however, if you have the physical space and the payload capability to install the necessary hardware, just about any aircraft can be equipped for broadband Internet access. Most recently, two companies -- Gulfstream Aerospace and Rockwell Collins -- announced government approvals for their respective broadband technologies and have hit the streets trying to sell them. For example, Gulfstream this month announced that the GIV, GIV-SP, G400 and G300 bizjets can be retrofitted with the company's ultra-high-speed Broad Band Multi-Link data system, or BBML for short. The BBML has already been available under a supplemental type certificate (STC), in the G450/G550 and G550/500, as well as in the GV. The FAA on March 16 granted the company an STC for the additional models and says the latest approval also includes VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) capability. Meanwhile, Rockwell Collins said this week it had received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval to offer its eXchange broadband data and live TV solution for installation and full operation on a customer aircraft in the United States. This FCC action follows an experimental license granted to eXchange in 2005, which allowed for the initial deployment and testing of eXchange.

Gulfstream says its BBML data system allows passengers to perform any Web-based task at the same speed found in most corporate offices. As of late February, the BBML system, which employs the SKYLink by ARINC Direct broadband satellite service, has been installed in nine G550s, six G450s, one GV and two GIVs, and more than 20 more systems are under contract. Meanwhile, Rockwell Collins began installing its eXchange system in Samsung Techwin's two Bombardier Global Express XRS business jets, as well as on a Bombardier Global 5000 demonstrator aircraft, last November. An additional customer has also selected eXchange for its Global Express XRS business jet. The company said its system will be the first to offer live broadband television while flying over oceanic regions. eXchange TV provides up to four channels around the globe of time-sensitive programming through agreements with premium providers such as MSNBC, CNBC, BBC World, EuroNews and EuroSportNews. Most of the rest of us will be stuck with the existing alternatives, many of which are ground-based. That is, of course, unless aircraft using the Gulfstream or Rockwell Collins systems also install a WiFi router, and we fly in close formation with them.