How do you know which private jet connectivity solution is right for you? ViaSat’s James Person offers some thoughts, addressing some of the FAQs he receives…
Five FAQs to consider before installing internet onboard your jet…
Jet connectivity vendors across the globe are bringing new solutions to market touting the fastest speeds, global connectivity and rock-solid reliability – but with all of this ‘noise’ how do you know which is the right solution for you? ViaSat’s James Person offers some thoughts…
There’s a natural expectation that internet access should be anywhere and having an ‘office-in-the-sky’ experience shouldn’t be a hard thing to accomplish; however, bringing connectivity to an airplane flying at 525 knots at 50,000 feet is no small feat.
Following are five questions requiring answers before installing an in-flight internet system on your business jet.
FAQ1: What types of connectivity solutions are available?
When talking about aircraft connectivity – it becomes an alphabet soup of connectivity acronyms. You’ll hear about Ka-band, Ku-band, L-band and ATG (air-to-ground). But what does all this mean? These acronyms refer to the frequency used by in-flight internet systems – whether satellite-based (Ka-, Ku-, and L-band), or mobile wireless (i.e. ATG).
When comparing satellite versus mobile wireless you must know that satellite systems enable you to connect when traveling globally as the internet signal from the aircraft communicates with satellites that sit thousands of miles above the earth’s atmosphere. ATG communicates with cell towers and base stations that are land-locked. Thus if you need a global solution, an ATG solution is not for you.
Of the satellite systems, L-band is an older, constrained frequency band. While global, it was not built for delivering internet bytes, thus it provides a somewhat unreliable internet backbone that will barely allow passengers and crew the ability to send emails. The L-band system is also associated with high costs in which users pay by the megabyte.
Ku-band, meanwhile, was the first to offer high-speed connectivity to the business jet market. It was primarily used by broadcasters to feed TV programming (live sporting events and remote news stories globally), but has since been tapped by many satellite providers to provide connectivity to the business jet market.
For Large Cabin business jets looking for global connectivity, Ku-band is certainly an option, but residing in a lower frequency band the capacity is lower than Ka-band. It can still handle office-in-the-sky applications, but at a lower speed. (Incidentally, Ku refers to a frequency band under K-band, and Ka refers to a frequency above K-band.)
When considering Ka-band systems, it’s important to note that not all Ka-band satellites are the same.
ViaSat alone provides ViaSat-1 and ViaSat-2 offering 140 Gigabits per second (Gbps) and 300 Gbps of total network capacity respectively across more than 80% of the business jet air routes. Starting in 2020, the ViaSat-3 constellation will comprise of three 1,000 Gbps satellites offering worldwide coverage.
Be aware that some Ka-band satellite provider networks consist of 20 to 30 Gbps of total capacity, spreading a thin layer of capacity across the globe. Such capacity spreading has some merit and may meet the basic needs of some business jet customers seeking global coverage, but the service will ultimately be less reliable and some of today’s travelers may find insufficient capacity to serve their internet demands.
The key point is that prospective users need more than to simply identify a desired frequency band. They need to ask questions about speeds and capacity of the network used within that band.
In addition, you need to know what you’re buying and when. No buyer wants to buy ‘old technology’ now, thinking it’s the latest and greatest only to discover something bigger, better and bolder hitting the market shortly after their purchase. Ask the network/shipset manufacturer about their next steps pertaining to a particular system or piece of equipment that will be installed on the aircraft.
FAQ2: Can I expect a home-, or office-like, internet experience in my aircraft?
The average internet speed in today’s US household is 18.7Mbps, and the average home internet speed globally is 7.2Mbps (according to Fastmetrics). Contrasting those characteristics with today’s in-flight internet capabilities, business jet passengers and crew can expect internet speeds anywhere from 1.5Mbps to 16Mbps with today’s Ku- or Ka-band internet systems. So the answer is yes – you can expect a home- or office-like internet experience.
Aircraft owners, guests, pilots and crew can all simultaneously use the internet the way they want with high-quality internet services over land and water.
FAQ3: What does internet speed really do for me?
Every user aboard the aircraft has a different need or use for connectivity service when in the air, and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) must be able to anticipate this. In today’s connected world, the ISP must be able to offer a consistent level of service across the airplane. They do this by providing enough capacity and speed to address the bandwidth needs of everyone onboard – all at the same time.
The ISP must be prepared to serve passengers in the cabin who want to VPN into their corporate network, watch live TV over the internet or simply browse the internet, all-the-while accommodating the pilot and crew who will need to tap into the same bandwidth, at the same time, to coordinate flight paths, check weather patterns or connect with maintenance crews on the ground.
Thus, the ISP should work with the customer to determine the type of connectivity, speed and pricing plan most desired, based on anticipated connectivity uses. For example, web browsing usage requires a connection maintaining a speed between 0.5Mbps and 5Mbps depending on the number of users onboard.
Lower-end speeds, however, may frustrate the end-user to the point that they believe the internet is not even working.
Additionally, the ISP should demonstrate understanding of how many people are expected to be on the internet connection simultaneously and how they will be connected (VPN or otherwise), as these factors will affect the overall user experience.
Connecting to an email account via VPN requires more of the available internet connection on the airplane. To ensure a suitable experience, the ISP and customer should discuss this in advance. Another example is streaming video, which requires a connection providing at least 1.0Mbps for a standard-definition (SD) experience and up to 5Mbps for a high-definition (HD) experience.
The key to having a great internet experience onboard is having an ISP that can offer enough network capacity to satisfy the internet application expected when in-flight. Work with an ISP that can demonstrate they can meet current and forward-looking network capacity needs to meet existing bandwidth expectations as well as tomorrow’s applications.
FAQ4: Can I stream live television over my in-flight internet connection?
First, differentiate Live TV broadcast from streaming TV. Live TV broadcast is a feed of live events accessed via channels broadcasted over a capable direct broadcast satellite system. Streaming TV is an ‘on demand’ access to available content via an application (e.g., Netflix, Hulu or Amazon). Both of these activities require a subscription service from a service provider.
Streaming live TV is possible with the proper scenario onboard the aircraft. First, your internet system must produce a minimum constant speed of 3Mbps to support streaming TV broadcast.
While streaming may be possible at speeds under 3Mbps, the quality of the content being viewed would likely be sacrificed.
An AppleTV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick or similar device would be needed to access the TV channels. It should be noted that some newer aircraft routers come with these apps embedded – so no additional hardware would need to be purchased.
Many current and future internet systems will offer internet protocol television (IPTV). In some cases, IPTV will be able to access popular TV channels using your aircraft’s internet system without needing to use the purchased internet data plan to do so. This service (such as offered by ViaSat) is a separately purchased plan from the internet plan, and can mean significant in-flight internet cost savings for the end-user.
FAQ5: What can I do with a 30, 40, 60 or 100GB per month plan?
There is a lot of confusion about what can and cannot be done with today’s in-flight connectivity data plans. Understanding how much data it takes to use certain applications onboard will help shape your purchasing decision. Typically:
- A 30GB per month plan enables users to send about 300,000 emails or stream 40 hours of SD video (480p) on a popular streaming application like Netflix;
- A 40GB per month plan allows users to download 20,000 documents or stream 6,400 songs online;
- A 60GB per month plan allows users to conduct HD video (1080p) conferencing calls for about 45 hours or watch 20 hours of HD video streaming; and
- A 100GB per month plan enables users to send 1,000,000 emails or participate in a HD group video call with five people for about 48 hours.
The above are average-use cases, and potential buyers should meet with their ISP to discuss how they plan to use the internet onboard. They should discuss how many active users will be online and how often, what applications they will use, whether the internet usage will be for both the back and front of the plane, and what are the expected flight routes.
There is an internet service and plan for every user. Finding the right ISP to meet your data needs today and well into the future requires trust and an understanding of the ISP’s roadmap – as installing internet onboard is a costly endeavor.
ViaSat’s Value Proposition
ViaSat supports thousands of global aircraft with in-flight internet, allowing passengers to do all of the normal office tasks they expect, plus stream media from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon or any other streaming media service and even takes advantage of the internet for advanced teleconferencing or voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calling.
ViaSat says its Ka-band internet service provides the fastest industry speeds and best-in-market pricing by offering more Ka-band capacity than any other in-flight Wi-Fi provider. As a powerful in-flight internet service, it can deliver impressive speed, performance and reliability—globally.
ViaSat’s system is built for tomorrow’s internet, empowering users to do more on board from everyday web browsing, sending emails and getting secure access to a corporate VPN to conducting multi-site video conferences plus stream music, movies, HD IPTV and videos. The service is available during all phases of flight including taxi, takeoff and landing.