Multilink aircraft communications to underpin the industry’s recovery response | SITA

 
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Multilink aircraft communications to underpin the industry’s recovery response

Published on  06 August by Andy Hubbard , Head of Cockpit Communications Portfolio, SITA FOR AIRCRAFT
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Before COVID-19, we’d been concentrating all our aircraft communications efforts on delivering the services commanded by a 21st century air transport industry. SITA FOR AIRCRAFT experts from Rio de Janeiro to Riyadh were working to provide the coverage and capacity needed to support overcrowded airspaces, and data-driven, new generation connected aircraft. Together with air navigation service providers and technology partners, we’ve been paving the way for an expected doubling of passenger numbers by 2037, so operators can fly safely and efficiently for years to come.

This pre-pandemic picture feels a lifetime away with the history-making global drop in passenger demand  resulting from COVID-19. Yet as airlines begin to resume operations, they will be more focused than ever on making efficiencies. Carriers will require a rich and robust aircraft communications and connectivity ecosystem in order to reemerge from this crisis in an even more cost effective and flexible way.

Our Unified Aircraft Communications (UAC) portfolio of globally-managed, fault-resilient connectivity services is here to underpin the industry’s response to the 'new world' challenges. As airlines manage a careful restart under tighter margins, UAC gives them the flexibility to choose the best-fit solution for their, and their stakeholders’ needs, now and in the future.

Flexibility and resilience 

A dynamic aircraft operator environment calls for a diverse multilink communications ecosystem, and this is precisely the direction we’ve been taking for our aircraft communications portfolio. Alongside our ongoing upgrades to mission-critical VHF/VDL networks worldwide, we’ve actively evolved our core offering to encompass new generation IP links, such as SwiftBroadband-Safety, which provide secure, globally available and high-throughput channels for aircraft data exchanges. We’ve launched AoIPConnect®, the industry’s first ACARS over cellular service, and helped airlines to optimize the use of cellular, and in the near future, cabin link, capacity for non-critical data offloads. We are also readying to support Iridium's new Certus® connectivity solution in time for full commercial airline service launch.

All this has already enabled us to build greater flexibility, responsiveness and overall data bandwidth into our services for different aircraft communications domains. In a post-COVID-19 operating context, the industry is likely to accelerate its plans for migrating aircraft communications to a more multilink environment, which is why we’re redoubling our focus to meet this expected demand.

As our customers focus relentlessly on their recovery, we see an increased appetite for leveraging new and existing technology to drive efficiencies. We see this focus playing out particularly around maximizing the benefits of the connected aircraft and connected applications. Be it with our own EFB Weather Awareness Service (eWAS) or other connected EFB applications, such as fuel or dynamic flight plan optimization, there are efficiencies and savings to gain from connecting cockpit applications inflight.

Amid operational uncertainty, Unified Aircraft Communications provides the industry’s underlying, multilink communications layer, designed and ready and able to respond to particular airline needs in an ever-changing operating context. By identifying and giving airlines the ability to better control their aircraft communications data transfer preferences, we can unlock the benefits of data that, to date, has been left on the aircraft, due to transmission challenges and communication costs. Our UAC approach helps airlines to seamlessly manage costs, serves varying priorities, and gives added assurance of service resilience, failover and business continuity.

New opportunities with AoIPConnect®

Airlines continue to express an interest in our innovative ACARS terrestrial cellular option as part of their overall aircraft communications strategy. Indeed, almost every conversation we are having with airlines touches on the topic. Our AoIPConnect® airline launch programs are now underway with Cebu Pacific in Asia, Wizz Air in Europe and most recently, Azul Brazilian Airlines in South America, all adopting the solution. We continue to extend this offering through all major aircraft interface equipment manufacturers to address the diversity of our customers' fleets.

AoIPConnect® works by allowing carriers to make use of ground 3G/4G, and soon, 5G, connectivity for ACARS data exchanges. Not only does it interoperate with conventional channels, but it is more cost effective, offers greater throughput and frees up core VHF/VDL networks for priority messages. Indeed, to quote Wizz Air’s Technical Services Manager Konstantin Milarov: “The ability to extend our datalink coverage and implement automatic ACARS-based reporting and processes is a huge benefit… We will be able to move forward with better and more efficient aircraft timing reporting and conduct data transmissions across our entire network.”

AoIPConnect® capabilities offer another important benefit for airlines in the face of modified routes or who are adopting new ones. With this option, carriers can continue to exchange ACARS, even in areas where VHF/VDL coverage isn’t currently available.

The alternative cost model and enhanced bandwidth offered by AoIPConnect® also gives airlines a chance to take a fresh look at their aircraft data offload practices. Instead of opting to save costs by leaving rich, captured fleet data onboard, airlines can harness affordable AoIPConnect® to extract that data, and reap the benefits of the insights held within, for their operation. We see the next logical step being to add the use of cabin broadband connections to the program, and work is underway to support this. The immediate focus of the Industry, however, is on the use of cellular.

Built to support you and your needs

But the real strength of our UAC portfolio? Ultimately, for airlines, it’s the ‘U’ – for unified aircraft communications, and connectivity as-a-service. As an integrated, tech-agnostic force in the aircraft communications field, we’re skilled in managing the complexity of multiple technology and connectivity options, to give our customers a simple and seamless user experience.

This means our customers aren’t tied to a particular solution or scenario, and benefit from our multilink aircraft communications landscape. This means an airline need not worry today about what it wants to do with its aircraft messages, but rather who can offer the greatest flexibility in the long term. With our technical and commercial expertise, we can help airlines develop a progressive business model that evolves at the pace of the Covid-19 aviation market recovery – and the market will recover. All you need to know at the moment is that SITA FOR AIRCRAFT is here and can support you.

Speak to us

Discover how our Unified Aircraft Communications can benefit your operation. Visit sita.aero/aircraft, submit an enquiry form, or email worldwide@sita.aero to find out more.

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