Displaying items by tag: connectivity
KDDI, a leading telecommunications operator in Japan, is deploying Nokia's G.fast solution to apartments and multi-dwelling units (MDU) buildings to deliver ultra-broadband services to customers.
Reducing the need to install new fiber, Nokia's technology will enable KDDI to use existing copper lines in MDU buildings to deliver 830Mbps combined uplink and downlink speeds to customers.
To support customers' ultra-broadband needs, Japanese operators are using fiber where possible along with new technologies like G.fast for a large number of MDU locations where copper is already installed.
Developed by Nokia Bell Labs, G.fast uses vectoring technology to effectively reduce cross-talk interference that typically impacts data speeds over copper networks.
Providing support for Japan's VDSL2 specifications, Nokia's G.fast solution will minimize the impact to existing VDSL systems and enable operators to quickly upgrade their high-speed internet service to gigabit class through a simple CPE (customer premises equipment) replacement.
KDDI has been deploying Nokia's G.fast solution and has started its rollout of 'au Hikari MDU Type G'.
Teresa Mastrangelo, principal analyst at Broadband Trends said: "G.fast continues to be a preferred choice for operators seeking to deliver gigabit broadband services to MDUs as it eliminates many of the issues found with FTTH deployments such as building types and access. However, in Japan, deploying G.fast can be just as challenging as fiber due to the unique VDSL ecosystem and standards in place.
As one of the few vendors capable of supporting both the global and local Japanese VDSL standard, Nokia has been able to help KDDI capitalize on the benefits of G.fast and seamlessly scale and migrate their network with minimal disruption. This win is another great example for how G.fast technology is being used to quickly address customers need for greater broadband speeds."
Shigenari Saito, Administrative Officer, General Manager, Network Technology Development Division, Technology Sector, at KDDI said:
"KDDI already provides 10Gbps service for our 'au Hikari' FTTH customers, but the speed we can provide has been limited to 100Mbps service for MDUs where fiber is difficult to deploy. Nokia's G.fast solution enables us to connect existing 100Mbps users and new G.fast users under the same DPU (distribution point unit). This gives us the flexibility and economical path to meet the customer's demands for higher speed. Our decision to deploy Nokia G.fast is based on our long-term relationship and Nokia continues to be our long-term partner for delivering technology innovations."
Sandra Motley, president of Nokia's Fixed Networks Business Group, said: "Operators looking to quickly roll out new ultra-broadband services are increasingly adopting multi-technology strategies that allow them to maximize the use of both fiber and copper technologies. This is particularly true in some cases like inside an apartment building, where more traditional Fiber-to-the-Home solutions can be very challenging to deploy. We are excited to be working with KDDI to deploy our G.fast solution to deliver fiber-like speeds that will enhance the way customers experience their broadband services."
Project Loon, a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to extend Internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas, developed by Alphabet subsidiary 'X' (formerly Google X), has been working with satellite company SES to restore 4G/LTE connectivity to disaster-stricken Puerto Rico.
The connectivity is powered by Project Loon's targeted cell coverage and SES Networks' O3b FastConnect, a rapidly deployable satellite terminal delivering fibre-like performance. Together with local technology partners, SES and X are providing reliable high-performance connectivity to Puerto Ricans whose lives have been devastated by the hurricane Maria and who have limited means of communication.
"Our thoughts are with those whose lives have been impacted by this devastating hurricane," said Steve Collar, CEO of SES Networks. "Access to connectivity is crucial in getting those affected the information and help they need after a natural disaster. We are really pleased to be working with X and their other partners to deploy high-performance connectivity to Puerto Rico and to play a part in the island's restoration efforts."
Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. By partnering with telecommunications companies to share cellular spectrum, Project Loon enables people to connect to the balloon network directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices. The signal then passes across the balloon network and back down to the global internet on Earth.
"This is the first time we have used our new machine learning-powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, so we're still learning how best to do this," said head of Project Loon Alastair Westgarth. "As we get more familiar with the constantly shifting winds in this region, we hope to keep the balloons over areas where connectivity is needed for as long as possible."
Project Loon was launched in Puerto Rico by Alphabet's X in collaboration with the government of Puerto Rico, the US Federal Communications Commission, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and US telecommunications company AT&T.
Vodafone Germany said it plans to invest €2 billion in its fixed infrastructure as it moves to deliver gigabit fiber broadband to 13.7 million customers. The company said it aims to finish the investment by 2021 and will focus on three segments in cooperation with partner companies in Germany.
The network expansion and upgrade plays into Vodafone Germany’s aim to become a “leading converged communications operator” in the country. The operator said its enterprise-focused unit will bring fiber connectivity to 100,000 companies across 2,000 business parks at a cost of around €1.4 billion to €1.6 billion.
Vodafone Germany’s consumer operation, it said, will fork out €200 million to €400 million to expand its fiber network to reach 1 million homes in rural areas. The overall scheme will include €200 million invested into upgrading existing cable infrastructure to deliver gigabit speeds to Vodafone Germany’s cable base of 12.6 million.
Vodafone Germany CEO Hannes Ametsrejter said he was “excited to announce this transformation investment plan for Germany, which will bring gigabit broadband services to millions of consumers and business.”
Ametsrejter added, “The project is consistent with our strategic goal to become a leading converged communications operator in Germany, enabled by a best-in-class gigabit network infrastructure.”
The company’s fixed unit contributed 40 percent of service revenue in Germany in the opening quarter of its financial year, contributing €1 billion in quarterly earnings, according to Vodafone’s Q1 fiscal financial statement covering the three months to end June.
The investment is Vodafone’s largest since its £19 billion ‘Project Spring’ investment, a two-year strategy to improve its mobile infrastructure. The operator’s presence in Germany’s broadband market grew when in 2013 it acquired the country’s largest cable operator Kabel Deutschland for €7.7 billion.
Infinera and Seaborn Networks (Seaborn) tells us they have deployed Infinera’s new XTS-3300 meshponders on Seaborn’s Seabras-1 submarine cable to rapidly offer cloud connectivity services like SeaCloud™. Seabras-1 is the only submarine cable system with a direct connection between São Paulo, Brazil and New York City, enabling Seaborn to offer SeaSpeed™, its proprietary lowest-latency route, between these key global financial centers.
Seaborn recently announced that Seabras-1 is now ready for operations. At 10,600 kilometers of subsea cable with multiple branching units, Seabras-1 is the longest uncompensated cable deployed connecting North and South America. Seabras-1 is designed to provide additional route diversity to Virginia Beach, Miami, St. Croix, Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro, southern Brazil and Cape Town. Seaborn selected the XTS-3300 to deliver the industry’s highest subsea spectral efficiency and lowest power consumption available in a commercially deployed, compact, easy-to-use platform.
While many subsea cables can take days to activate capacity, the Seaborn team was able to configure the XTS-3300 and light the fiber in an impressive 30 minutes. Infinera’s unique large-scale photonic integration technology delivers terabit super-channels and, along with the Advanced Coherent Toolkit (ACT), enables rapid activation of subsea links. With Infinera Instant Bandwidth, the industry’s first software defined capacity (SDC) solution, Seaborn can deploy bandwidth in 100 gigabits per second increments within minutes and a few clicks of a mouse, while the XTS-3300 platform enables scalability up to 11.8 terabits per second on a fiber. The XTS-3300 seamlessly integrates with Seaborn’s existing Infinera terrestrial backhaul networks in Brazil and New York, which include Infinera’s XTC and XTM Series.
The XTS-3300 provides Seaborn with a subsea platform that integrates the groundbreaking performance of the Infinera Infinite Capacity Engine 4 (ICE4), which features unique performance-enhancing technologies such as Nyquist subcarriers and SD-FEC gain sharing. The deployment of the XTS-3300 on Seabras-1 significantly exceeded Seaborn’s capacity-reach performance targets, helping increase the return on Seaborn’s deployed subsea cable asset. The XTS-3300 is a highly efficient rack-and-stack solution with the lowest power consumption in a commercially deployed platform.
“In our quest to meet unprecedented bandwidth demand from our customers, we rely on solutions that are easy to operate, highly reliable and provide cloud scale capacity in a small form factor,” said Larry W. Schwartz, Chairman & CEO, Seaborn Networks. “The Infinera XTS3300 meshponder significantly exceeded our expectations, allowing us to provision services within minutes between our Infinera metro networks in Brazil and New York. This, combined with Instant Bandwidth, enables us to rapidly respond to our customers’ hyperscale requirements and offer cloud scale service on demand.”
“We are honored to partner with Seaborn to light the Seabras-1 cable,” said Tom Fallon, Infinera Chief Executive Officer. “Infinera continues to push the physics of the optical transport world for the benefit of our customers and the networks they run. The XTS-3300 is purpose-built for subsea applications, delivering industry leading subsea performance while integrating seamlessly into Seaborn’s existing terrestrial and subsea network.”
The Jordanian region of Saraya Aqaba is the first in the country to get Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity. The luxury mixed-use tourism and leisure destination located on the shores of the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aqaba in Jordan was fitted with the infrastructure by R&M, A Swiss producer of products and systems for communication and data networks.
The undertaking by R&M will allow more than 800 residential units and commercial establishments to enjoy high-speed connectivity and the latest triple-play services from telecom operators.
Saraya Aqaba covers over 634,000 square meters, features residential units, premium five-star hotels, several entertainment outlets, state-of-the-art business facilities and a Souk. The deployment of R&M’s cabling solutions was executed by Optimiza, the cabling vendor’s systems integrator partner in Jordan.
In recent years, FTTH has become a key aspect of city development projects as the in-home lifestyle of consumers in the region is being transformed into an online-dominated experience. Raed Al-Omari, Director of Mega Projects, said Saraya Aqaba is “designed to provide the very latest facilities and amenities to residents and guests. The fibre infrastructure we have deployed provides the robust platform upon which a host of critical modern services will be offered.”
With the ability to provide Gigabit connectivity, FTTH opens up a range of possibilities. Among these are triple play services - the packaging of voice, high speed internet, and television as a combined offering from a single telecom provider. Convenience and safety are also top priorities for the developers of the mega-project which is why vital services such as fire alarms, CCTV, intercoms, and access control will all be connected to a centrally managed system via the secure FTTH network.
As this is the first FTTH project in the country, the project’s consultants were keen on leveraging the expertise of qualified experts for the undertaking. Having successfully delivered many such projects in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Oman, R&M had an impressive list of regional references and was qualified to provide the technical expertise and guidance necessary through the design, deployment and testing phases.
Product quality was also a major factor in vendor selection as the network had to meet present and future requirements. “Today we provide 10GbE connectivity over this network, but thanks to the quality and capabilities of the solutions we have invested in, we can increase this speed by a factor of four without having to make any changes to the cabling infrastructure,” explained Raed Al-Omari.
Optimiza has utilized R&M’s Cat. 6 copper cabling system for a horizontal cabling system. The entire compound is networked by FTTH using GPON technology whereby every subscriber has broadband-ready connectivity. The deployment has also entailed the use of specially customized Smart Home cabinet solutions from R&M, housing copper, fibre optic as well as the ONT equipment from the service provider on all customer premises.
“R&M is proud to add another high-profile city development project to the list of FTTH successes. With the advancement of technology in the Middle East and the tech-savvy nature of consumers, FTTH is the clear way forward to meet growing expectations,” said Mohammad Sweidan, Area Director - Africa, Levant & Kuwait at R&M Middle East, Turkey and Africa.
US technology firm Cisco Systems has announced that its technologies will be used to help roll-out free public Wi-Fi in London. Last week, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan vowed to make London the ‘smartest city’ in the world - and one way of ensuring that vision is to enhance ‘connectivity’.
In a statement released by the US conglomerate which is headquartered in San Jose, California, it said Cisco hardware is set to underpin O2 and Vodafone in an effort to implement free public Wi-Fi across the city. It was further disclosed that the new network will use Cisco’s outdoor access point, the Aironet 1560 series, to provide high bandwidth connectivity points in the square mile area.
In addition to this, Cisco’s technology will sit in passive physical infrastructure provided by O2’s joint-venture with Vodafone, Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure, while 02 will provide the network core. The new network will replace the existing service entitled ‘The Cloud’ which is provided by Sky. The new roll-out is expected to be complete by autumn - and users will be able to access the network for free after completing a one-time registration process.
Chief Operating Officer for O2, Derek McManus emphasized the importance of continuous investment in new infrastructure and digital technologies. McManus said, “Continued investment in infrastructure is essential to maintain the UK’s reputation as a digital leader and we needed a partner that would be able to provide cutting-edge technology to help us realize this." McManus also expressed his delight that they were able to broker an agreement with Cisco, and said the organization’s technology was robust, fast and seamless.
According to Cisco SVP, Global Service provider, Peter Karlstromer access to free Wi-Fi and enhanced connectivity is now a basic requirement for any city looking to drive ‘innovation’. He said, “Free Wi-Fi connectivity is now a pre-requisite for any city looking to drive innovation and compete on a globe scale."
The multi-million pound contract with the City of London was announced in April, and it aims to improve the city’s ‘smart infrastructure’. 4G connected cells will be implemented in street furniture such as street signs, lamp posts and buildings in an attempt to make London ‘connected’. It’s also been reported that Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited will offer all ‘smart infrastructure’ on a wholesale basis to all UK operators, as part of a collective effort to enhance mobile coverage in the area.
In May, O2 said it would invest £80m to install 1,400 small cells in London in a collaboration agreement with Cisco in order to improve mobile coverage for its own subscribers.
The CEO of Australia’s leading telecommunications firm Telstra has warned operators that consumer data prices will soon be a thing of the past. Andrew Penn issued the stark statement when delivering his keynote address at Mobile World Congress Shanghai. (MWCS 2017)
According to Penn operators need to prepare for already declining consumer data prices to reach zero within the next 5-10 years. Telstra’s CEO insisted that it was critical that operators diversified away from being just ‘connectivity providers’ - and that they must focus on providing other services for consumers on top of connectivity.
Penn said: “There is a real possibility that the price for data to the consumer will go to zero in the next 5-10 years. Operators must ensure that they can offer customers wider, consumer-friendly services in order to ensure relevance, sustainability and new revenue streams which will help them avoid falling further down the value chain.”
In addition to this, Penn warned of the dangers of spending too much time focusing on ‘cool technology’ being displayed at MWC Shanghai – and not enough on how innovations would be delivered for the good of the customer. Penn added: “We need to ensure that new products that are designed are intuitive and customer friendly.” Telstra’s CEO highlighted Netflix as a successful example of this.
Telstra have introduced a series of new initiatives specifically designed to improve the user interface of new services after conducting an investigation of its customer service calls. Penn revealed that a staggering 90% of queries which were made to Telstra’s customer help center could’ve been avoided if improvements in technology or customer care had been implemented with new technologies.
Telstra have come under scathing criticism in recent weeks in Australia, following the organization’s decision to axe over 1,500 members of its workforce, citing increased competition as the main factor in its decision to reduce staff.
Smartphones are now in 80 percent of U.S. homes – a six percentage point increase year-over-year (YOY) – and U.S. consumers now own 27 million more smartphones than they did just last year, according to new research from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).
CTA’s 19th Annual Consumer Technology Ownership and Market Potential Study also shows televisions remain the most popular technology device in the U.S., as they have for decades – almost every household (96 percent) owns at least one TV. Additionally, from 2016 to 2017, the U.S. market saw an increase in the overall installed base of connected devices including smart home devices, smart TVs, wearables and wireless speakers.
“Connectivity – the anytime/anywhere access to information and entertainment we now expect – is a driving trend of our time, supported by the continued growth we’ve seen in smartphone ownership,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA.
“Smartphones are our personal hubs for innovative technologies like smart homes, connected cars and voice-recognition services. And, as more of us recognize the ability of technology to change our lives for the better, smartphones will continue to be one of the most pervasive technologies owned in homes throughout the U.S.”
“Three of the top five most frequently owned technology devices are products with screens – televisions, smartphones and laptops – and those numbers will continue to grow as one-third of consumers tell us they’ll buy at least one smartphone in 2017, and one-fifth say they plan to buy a television or laptop in the coming year,” said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research, CTA.
“U.S. consumers are quickly embracing the rapid rise of today’s ‘screen culture,’ demonstrating their appetite for connected devices that enable easy and accessible consumption of content of all types.”
Smartphones and in-vehicle communications/safety systems saw the largest gains in household ownership among connected devices – both increasing by six percentage points YOY. Almost half (45 percent) of U.S. households now have at least one vehicle with a driver-assistive safety or communication system such as back-up sensors, rearview cameras or hands-free calling. Smart home devices, smart TVs, smartwatches, wearable activity trackers and wireless speakers each saw an increase in household ownership of four percent YOY.
“Our research last year showed most consumers are excited about automated driving features and self-driving cars, but there’s still some hesitancy about the technology,” said Koenig. “This report is further evidence that, despite that wariness, more and more drivers want innovations that help keep them safer on the road. So, as a broader range of our driving tasks are automated via driving-assist technologies, eventually, riding in a self-driving car will be just an incremental step from the in-car tech we’ve all come to know and love.”
Among emerging technologies, 4K Ultra HD (UHD) television is enjoying the fastest growth in ownership. CTA’s research analysis shows 16 percent of U.S. households now own a 4K UHD TV – up nine percentage points YOY – and 11 percent of U.S. households plan to purchase a 4K UHD TV in the coming year. Other emerging technologies expected to experience significant YOY ownership growth in the year to come include voice-activated digital assistants, drones and virtual reality headsets.
The 19th Annual Consumer Technology Ownership and Market Potential Study ascertains ownership and purchase intent of consumer technology products among U.S. households across various categories. The report was administered via a dual-frame telephone interview to 2,014 U.S. adults between Feb. 2-13, 2017.
UK telecommunications company EE Limited, which is a division of the BT Group has unveiled new ‘balloon drone technology’ which has been specifically designed to provide 4G connectivity in disaster hit areas and underserved parts of the UK.
EE, the largest mobile network operator in the UK that boasts over 30 million customers, is also the largest operator of 4G services in Europe. At an EE technology showcase the company expressed its desire to bring connectivity to rural parts of Britain –highlighting not only how important it is to bridge the connectivity gap – but how much of a challenge it will be.
EE CEO, Marc Allera, unveiled a patent pending helium balloon named ‘Helikite’ which comes equipped with mobile mini-sites that can provide 4G coverage where permanent sites have either been damaged or there is no 4G coverage.
The EE CEO said that whilst rural areas of the UK are less attractive because there are naturally less customers which will subsequently result in lower returns – he explained how the organization was ‘obsessed’ in addressing coverage gaps in the UK.
The charismatic CEO said, “We cover 75 per cent of the UK geography, and 15,000 of our 18,000 sites nationwide have been upgraded to 4G,” he said. “There are just 10 towns with a population of 10,000 people where we don’t cover with 90 per cent of our geographic coverage. But we are coming.”
EE’s CEO then spoke about the operator’s long-term plan in which it will provide ‘coverage on demand’ – disclosing details of EE’s plans to deploy a balloon solution within a rural environment this year which will use aerial solutions to provide additional coverage and capacity in three years.
He added, “Looking ahead, I see innovations like this revolutionizing the way people connect. In the future, why couldn’t we offer what we’re calling ‘coverage on demand’ - what if an event organizer could request temporary EE capacity in rural parts of the UK?”
In relation to EE’s work in the UK’s new Emergency Services Network – EE said it would deploy a fleet of Rapid Response Vehicles in forthcoming weeks and months ahead in order to support the infrastructure. Allera refuted suggestions that EE were behind on the project and stated the EE ‘was on track’ with its obligations.
Wi-Fi connections now exist almost everywhere in modern infrastructure, found in a multitude of areas, from cafes to your local bus stop, airports, schools and offices. Without the convenience of Wi-Fi, connecting with people on-the-go wouldn’t be anywhere near as easy as it is today. For a long time Wi-Fi didn’t penetrate the commercial airline industry. Traveling through the sky, passengers were expected to switch off their mobile phone and accept a general lack of connectivity with the world below. That tradition has changed in recent years, with the emergence of reliable and often free Wi-Fi services available on commercial flights.
While basic Wi-Fi was first introduced in the late 90’s, the first airline to introduce in-flight Wi-Fi wasn’t until 2009. Virgin America was the first airline to offer Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi service on all of its flights. Gogo Inc. is a Chicago-based provider of in-flight broadband internet services and other connectivity services for commercial and business aircraft. The company spearheaded the way for in-flight Wi-Fi services, with 12 airlines in partnership with Gogo to provide Wi-Fi services, including Virgin America, Air Canada, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.
In-flight Wi-Fi is still a relatively new service; it is still evolving and being perfected. Since the service was made available, in-flight Wi-Fi services have not always been up to par with the tech-savvy needs of travelers who require fast and consistent connectivity. Many airlines announced that they would be introducing in-flight Wi-Fi in 2015, such as Ryanair, Finnair, Sri Lankan Airlines, Kuwait Airways, TAAG Angola Airlines and WestJet. But there is still a long way to go before in-flight Wi-Fi is provided by all airlines at a reasonable price and with substantial speeds.
Only a handful of airlines currently offer free in-flight Wi-Fi services, including Emirates, JetBlue, Norweigian, Turkish Airlines, Air China, Philippine Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Nok Air. It’s a trend that will no doubt expand as more airlines begin to realize the benefits of keeping their passengers connected in a digital age.
Internet availability on aircraft is increasing steadily among leading Middle Eastern airlines which are known for providing luxurious services. “We are expecting the region to have one of the largest roll-outs of connectivity of any major region over the next few years,” said Heath Lockett, senior analyst of aerospace, a U.S.-based research company.
“This is driven by a number of airlines such as Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, which are offering vast levels of luxury to their passengers, with connectivity being a key part of the current plans with existing aircraft and future plans for new additions to their fleets,” Heath added.
Origins of in-flight Wi-Fi
Back in the 90’s aircraft used to feature clunky Airfone handsets. Every call would cost a small fortune, offering nothing more than a short static-filled interaction with someone on the ground. Those calls were made possible by towers distributed on the ground. When airlines came to the conclusion that passengers weren’t really using the provided Airfone’s, the frequency was repurposed by Gogo who stepped in to develop the service into internet connectivity for passengers.
The execution seemed simple enough: airlines had to install an antenna to the bottom of an aircraft, enabling it to communicate with the ground stations. However, ground stations obviously couldn’t be placed in the ocean, so for international travel, a different solution was required. That’s where satellites eventually came in to play.
Satellite bandwidth is more expensive which made the commercial model difficult at first, but today it is flourishing. In early in-flight Wi-Fi adoption, wireless antennas also became a problem. For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had to make sure that all aircraft could continue a flight if the radome (radar that covers the antenna) was hit by a bird traveling at 400 miles per hour.
Fast-forward to 2016, and there are various types of in-flight Wi-Fi available to passengers who like to keep connected while travelling. For example, the ATG system of Wi-Fi, designed for domestic travel over land, requires two antennas that are dually installed on the bottom of an aircraft, able to pick up signals from land-based cell towers below.
A flight attendant must switch the ATG system on so that the aircraft can begin picking up signals from the below towers. Majority of ATG services provide passengers with Wi-Fi speeds of approximately 3 Mbps, which is sufficient for checking emails and social media. While Gogo’s latest ATG-4 system is able to support up to 10 Mbps, it isn’t available on as many planes as the slower ATG-3.
Satellite Ku-band service is another means of in-flight Wi-Fi, popular with in-flight entertainment providers like Gogo, Panasonic Avionics Corp. and Row 44. Ku-band covers a much larger area than ATG, and allows passengers to stay connected even when flying out of range of ground-based cell towers or over vast ocean.
A common Ku-band antenna is located within a dome-shaped device that rests on top of an aircraft, similar to a rooftop television satellite dish on a house. The antenna must be directed towards the transmitting satellite as the plane flies. Passengers are provided with Wi-Fi services once the antenna picks up the satellite signal, providing speeds of up to 30-40 Mbps.
While the speeds provided by Ku-band are much better than ATG, efficiency depends on how many aircraft one satellite serves. Due to the distance that a signal must travel, satellite Wi-Fi connections often suffer from latency issues that do not affect ATG.
Ka-band is another solution for in-flight Wi-Fi, formally used for military communications. It is the fastest Wi-Fi service available for airlines, and is popular with JetBlue, Virgin America and some United 737s. Ka-band is powered by satellite and wireless-service provider ViaSat, powering Ka-band with its ViaSat-1 satellite, which is more effective than Ku-band satellites, promising speeds of up to 70 Mbps to each aircraft (similar to speeds you would experience at home).
ViaSat’s Ka-band satellite, launched in 2011, was the only satellite of its kind, thus only serving the U.S. However, the company plans to launch a second Ka-band satellite this year which will subsequently cover Canada and areas of Europe. Virgin America, taking advantage of the exclusivity of Ka-band’s availability in the U.S., has opted to use a Ka-/Ku-band hybrid receiver on its A320 aircraft, allowing it to switch between Ku- and Ka- bands depending on which has a stronger signal. According to Virgin America, this allows its passengers to stream Netflix and Spotify.
In most modern aircraft, in-flight Wi-Fi systems rely on similar technology that was used to outfit planes with the first seat-embedded in-flight phones. A typical aircraft will host a series of black boxes (not to be confused with flight recorders) tucked behind the wall panels, lining one side of the airplane, set slightly above the windows. These boxes serve as the Wi-Fi access points. Officially called Wireless Access Points (WAPs), the boxes function similarly to routers found in a home. However, these routers are a lot more expensive and very fragile since they’re placed in an aircraft.
An important thing to remember when flying with various airlines and comparing the Wi-Fi systems, is that the downloading speeds are all controlled. All in-flight Wi-Fi has the potential to be fast and efficient. However, all aircraft keep the service “auto-throttled” as a means of distributing the service equally among the passengers. As a result, in-flight Wi-Fi will always be quicker with fewer passengers.
Challenges facing the industry
In-flight Wi-Fi has faced a number of challenges. Airlines reliant upon ground-based cell towers have faced various connection issues. Flights over the U.S. are fine, because the country has widespread cell-tower distribution. But even in remotely populated states, such as Montana and Nebraska, cell towers are more spread out, often causing antenna signals to disconnect.
Of course, these issues get worse the further an aircraft travels from city hubs, such as areas near the North and South Pole, where cell towers aren’t available, causing a disconnection for passengers. Similarly with regions in Russia and China, access is often restricted due to political policy.
To solve the issue of connectivity interference with the ground, the new ATG-4 service adds two additional antennas to the side of an aircraft; currently being added to some commercial planes today. Testing of the service on Gogo’s 737-500 flying test bed prove that ATG-4 is efficient enough to stream video. However, auto-throttle is likely to reduce the availability of data for passengers.
Gogo has reportedly improved its Ku-band housing that sits on top of an aircraft, claiming that its new satellite-based 2Ku service will feature a dome that is only 17mm thick and able to deliver speeds of up to 70 Mbps. This is a significant improvement for any airline, seeing as common dome models carry a 400- 600-pound fuel penalty for each flight; thus, reducing the weight could save thousands of gallons of fuel and reduce aircraft emissions.