“Streaming TV shows, movies, and other types of video over the Internet to all manner of devices, once a fringe habit, is now a squarely mainstream practice.”Walt Mossberg, journalist
Last month we started our journey into which cabin connectivity solution is right for you. Now I’m going to dive a bit deeper into the solution that has become synonymous with connectivity: satellites (a.k.a., SATCOM).
Before the introduction of air-to-ground networks (next month’s topic), satellites were the only way to get even rudimentary data streams to and from an airborne aircraft’s cabin. Early versions were painfully slow, unreliable, and very expensive. Even the best of them delivered dial-up speeds on their best days.
Today, the technology is literally light years ahead of where it was a decade ago. Providers have designed, built, and launched constellations of satellites that deliver truly impressive in-cabin capabilities.
When it comes to SATCOM, speed thrills, but capacity delivers.
I’ve spoken with customers who have gotten caught up in a certain provider’s network speed. The problem with that is speed is measured under optimum conditions – one user on one network. Sorry, that’s not realistic. Your typical business aircraft cabin can have as many users as there are seats. All simultaneously vying for their slot on the network.
The question you really need to ask your provider is, what is the network’s capacity? Capacity is the amount of data that the network can handle at a given microsecond. It’s like having one car driving on a one-lane road – you can go as fast as you want. Add 14 more cars driving on that same road and things slow way down.
Now, put those 15 cars on a 15-lane road, and you’re back to full speed. That’s how a network’s capacity works. The more capacity, the better the connected experience.
Of course, that improved experience does come at a price, and it can be shockingly high. Again, that’s where careful pre-buy planning is so critical when you’re shopping for satellite service. Beware of the fine print.
Another thing to consider is the installation cost of the hardware on your aircraft. From the tail-mounted antenna to the LRUs and the WiFi router, it’s a big job that requires the removal of much of the aircraft’s cabin. The cost and downtime are significant.
Speaking of installations, in some older aircraft, it’s necessary to place the hardware in closets or behind interior panels; that can limit the performance of the router and the online experience at some seat locations. It’s rare, but it does happen.
So, is satellite the right connectivity solution for you? Well, if you do a lot of international travel, then it’s your only choice – for the foreseeable future anyway. But, as I mentioned earlier, if your missions keep you in North America, then air-to-ground may well be the way to go.
I’ll get into A2G next month. In the event you cannot wait until then, please give me a call. My team and I have the experience and brand affiliations to ensure your cabin connection meets everyone’s expectation.
END PART 2