A few months back, we penned a story about one of the most important improvements in inflight connectivity… more specifically, the VT Miltope router called nMAP2 and asked Robert Guidetti , VP/GM Commercial Division of VT Miltope for more data about the technical capability of it and its associated improvements on an aircraft Wi-Fi system, specifically, the increased passenger connectivity performance by using Cognitive Hotspot Technology (CHT). This time, we would like to increase the background on the CHT story and cover a bit more on the 802.11ac technology. If you don’t remember the story, you can find it here . So let’s now continue with some questions whose answers will provide our readers with a bit more technical knowledge about CHT:
1. Bob, first can you give us a quick summary of CHT, including some of the benefits, and tell our readers what products in the industry currently have it?
Cognitive Hotspot(TM) Technology (CHT) optimizes network performance in highly congested wireless environments. As more passengers bring one, or more, Wi-Fi devices onto the airplane, with higher expectations for performance, VT Miltope recognized the need to actively manage the wireless spectrum, the wireless access points (WAPs) and the associated client devices. Although the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands have a finite spectrum, at times the appetite for these bands seems almost insatiable. With the rapid expansion of services such as Video-on-Demand (VoD), e-mail, web surfing, games, and more, the cabin wireless network can become highly congested.
CHT actively monitors the spectrum utilization, the number of Wi-Fi client devices assigned to the network WAPs, what services are being supported, data rate requirements, data utilization, etc. Using the information gathered from real-time monitoring, CHT manages the wireless network, including: client load balancing, band and channel assignments, RF power, client roaming, the data service type (VoD, e-mail, web surfing, games, etc.) and rogue WAP detection. Overall, CHT optimizes the bandwidth available to the Wi-Fi cabin network.
The overarching result of using CHT is to allow an airline to use fewer WAPs, and to increase the overall performance of the wireless cabin network. Therefore, the IFE&C system performs at a higher level, at a lower cost.
VT Miltope’s latest cabin WAP, the nMAP2, embraces CHT as a standard feature set.
2. Why does the “C” in CHT stand for “Cognitive”? Furthermore, would you please note some of the long list of features provided by the nMAP2 with CHT?
The “Cognitive” in Cognitive Hotspot(TM) Technology reminds us that CHT makes a WAP smart. With CHT the VT Miltope nMAP2 WAPs are able to talk to each other, to share information gathered about the wireless environment, and to make intelligent decisions to optimize the wireless network.
- CHT is specifically designed to address the unique challenges of a dense and highly congested wireless environment, e.g. the aircraft cabin. The following summary list provides a smattering of the real-time CHT functions inherent within the nMAP2.
Automatic Channel Assignment (ACA):
- Advanced Load Balancing with QoS (ALB)
- Smart Roaming (SR)
- Automatic Failure Recovery (AFR)
- Location-Based Services (LBS)
- Interference Minimizer (IM)
- Advanced User Interface (AUI)
- Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) (DFS is on the CHT roadmap)
With these and additional features, the nMAP2 becomes a Cognitive, knowledge gathering and decision making network device.
3. Mr. Guidetti, this is a repeat question but given the various standards (802.11a, b, g, n, and ac) can you again tell our readers what is/are the standard(s) used most often today and please give us a bit of information about the number of available channels and the bandwidth available for each and where this is all headed for fliers in the next few years?
Development of the original IEEE 802.11 standard was started in the early 1990’s with the initial release in 1997, with revision A being released in 1999. As we look at the 802.11a/b/g/n/ac evolution in the table below, we see that most of these revisions were multiple years apart with significant increases in theoretical data rates from 11a and11g, to 11n, to 11ac. Although the actual data rates do not normally match the theoretical data rates (on the ground or in the air), the actual data rate increases have been quite impressive as well.
Today, 802.11n has become commonplace with 802.11ac rapidly becoming the highest performing and dominant Wi-Fi offering, with most portable wireless capable devices (smartphones, tablet computers, etc.) now coming standard with 802.11ac radios.
4. Bob, we understand “the cloud” is an important part of the connectivity solution, can you tell our readers how it plays a part in your connectivity solution?
As airlines adapt cloud computing to the aircraft, the availability of high capacity, reliable wireless networks on the aircraft will play an important role. Having a wireless network that can be scaled to support the increasing utilization and demands of the cloud without having to add more wireless hardware will benefit airlines in multiple ways. nMAP2 with CHT and its ability to assign quality of service criteria to airline prioritized data ideally supports cloud services.
5. Streaming video has become an important part of the connectivity solution today and we wonder if you are seeing increased airline request for more and better data rates, if the CHT technology improves capability to stream video and exactly how does that occur?
Yes, streaming video and content loading are two of the most demanding connectivity applications – streaming video because of its relatively high data rate requirement and that it be nearly error free without error correction, and content loading due to the large amount of data that must be moved within a limited time.
A significant wireless challenge within the airplane cabin is RF congestion with potentially hundreds of client devices competing for connectivity to the network. CHT manages RF channel usage, RF power levels and re-assigns client devices to the correct WAP/nMAP2 to optimize the wireless network performance. Testing with and without CHT has shown a 2-to-1 performance improvement within crowded wireless environments.
6. Given that an airline installs a CHT capable wireless router, can you tell our readers what differences an airline can expect with the technology and typically how many can be served streaming content at one time?
The nMAP2 with CHT performance can allow an airline to use fewer WAP/nMAP2 units per cabin, or to increase performance to more client devices than traditional WAPs. Regarding the number of client devices per nMAP2, this will vary depending upon the airplane cabin configuration, the number of client devices vying for the same RF channels, the QoS requirements, etc.
However, a good rule-of-thumb for 1 Mbps streaming video per nMAP2 radio is: 36 to 54 client devices using the 5 GHz channels and 18 to 36 client devices using the 2.4 GHz channels.
7. Can you tell us a little about the most recent testing (or installations) of the nMAP2 product and the results that you saw?
We are very excited about the nMAP2 – with hundreds of aircraft installations; our customers are finding the on-aircraft performance results and lab test results to be similar. Since CHT is able to manage the wireless network utilizing real-time signal-to-noise (SNR), QoS requirements, RF power measurement and management, and other parameters the nMAP2 with CHT is able to improve performance throughput by up to 400% within highly congested environments.
8. Is there any new technology and/or new products on the horizon that VT Miltope has on the drawing board?
VT Miltope sees two technology opportunities coming. The first his here and is on our roadmap for this coming year, with the second being closely watched. The first is 801.11ac Wave-2. Wave-2 is advancement to the initial roll-out of 802.11ac, with Wave-2 providing the potential to add more clients with faster data rates in crowded environments such as the airplane cabin.
The second opportunity is IEEE 802.11ad, nicknamed WiGig (wireless gigabit). Since the standards’ release in 2012, WiGig has been getting some traction. WiGig is a 60 GHz based RF communication standard targeted at high data rate, short range applications, such as gaming and high performance video. WiGig is being combined with 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi devices to provide three band options depending upon the user’s needs. The industry is watching the roll-out of WiGig to see how well it is accepted within the consumer electronics market – in other words: when will enough people be carrying WiGig devices onto airplanes to start rolling WiGig into IFE&C systems?
9. Please add any products, services, or new features we have not covered.
VT Miltope’s latest product release is the cTWLU. The cTWLU provides flexible and cost effective wireless communications while an airplane is on the ground. Utilizing 3G Cellular, LTE and 802.11a/b/g/n & ac, the cTWLU is used to load IFE content, to load EFB data and to move maintenance data from the airplane to an airlines’ data center. The cTWLU is a much lower cost alternative to satellite communications, and satellite coverage is often spotty when an airplane is on the ground.
VT Miltope’s latest cabin WAP, the nMAP2, embraces CHT as a standard feature set. Soon VT Miltope’s latest wireless product, the cTWLU, will also harness the power of CHT. The cTWLU is an LTE, Cellular and 802.11a/b/g/n & ac enabled wireless Gatelink device for airplane to airport surface communications.
10. Also, any new or other changes we can note… such as people or customers we should mention?
The nMAPw is also incredible.
Unfortunately, most of our customers request anonymity. However, please come by our booth at APEX (Booth #1717 ) in Singapore and we can answer other questions you might have about the incredible cTWLU and nMAP2!
Seat integration is now a major game changer in the realm of in-flight entertainment and seat design. Rising to these challenges, IFPL has designed a new concept – a unique range of remote multi-port solutions that provide the airline, seat vendor and IFEC supplier with complete flexibility to integrate and combine design aesthetics with ergonomics. IFPL’s unique multi-port range allows airlines, seat and IFEC suppliers the ability to deliver maximum seat integration, creating an accessible and seamless design aesthetic. With flexibility at the core, IFPL have designed a multi-port range that provides options for customization such as: front or rear mounted, fascia material and color, soft light guide color and intensity An ingenious design, this new type of Multiport Jack offers airlines around the world the flexibility of choosing from a variety of easy to replace modules. These include a variety of audio Jacks, different types of USB outlets and a collection of wireless interface options with functions such as reading lights and passenger control buttons. The Multiport Range is available in a number of size (port) options to facilitate clean and neat integration including 2, 3 and 4 port solutions. To provide even more flexibility, IFPL is taking the same approach with its 110V A/C and USB-C 3.1 power outlets. Committed to working with industry partners and customers across the globe, IFPL strives to deliver a seamlessly integrated passenger in-flight journey, turning the mundane into a more enhanced experience.
We received a last minute input from Irina at Ideasroadshow – “Here is the link on our YouTube channel. I am also sending you a link to the Motivational Moments playlist on our IFE YouTube channel. (Editor’s Note: This is good stuff and thanks for sharing it with our readers!)
Singapore Uber Deal – Download the Uber app and register for an account. You’ll have the option to input your credit card or opt for cash payment. To enjoy a $15 FREE ride, simply enter the code “IFEXPRESS” into the Promotions tab! The code is valid until 31 October 2016.
- Europe moves a step closer to offering air travellers the most powerful broadband experience in the sky after first-of-its-kind connectivity network achieves key milestone
United Kingdom | July 21, 2016– Inmarsat, the world’s leading provider of global mobile satellite communications, announced today that construction and associated sub-system tests of the satellite for its market-changing European Aviation Network (EAN) in-flight connectivity solution has been completed on schedule by Thales Alenia Space.
The key milestone was achieved on schedule following an extensive two-year build process in Toulouse and Cannes, France. The completed S-band payload module was shipped in early July to Thales Alenia Space’s testing center in Cannes, where satellite integration (‘mating’) was also successfully completed. The satellite is now undergoing rigorous system end-to-end testing before it is declared ready for flight in 2017.
EAN is the world’s first integrated satellite and air-to-ground network dedicated to providing a true in-flight broadband experience for Europe’s aviation industry and for millions of passengers who have been cut-off from fast, reliable and consistent broadband access during their flights.
The satellite has been custom-designed to provide mobile satellite services (MSS) to aircraft flying over the dense European routes, exploiting Inmarsat’s 30MHz (2 x 15MHz) S-band spectrum allocation in all 28 EU member states, plus Norway and Switzerland.
It will be integrated with a LTE-based ground network covering approximately 300 sites, operated by Inmarsat’s partner Deutsche Telekom. Aircraft will switch automatically between satellite and terrestrial connectivity using an on–board network communicator for optimal service delivery.
Leo Mondale, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “The European Aviation Network has been specifically engineered to meet the connectivity needs of the aviation industry and is a cornerstone in our expanding worldwide mobile cellular network. It will offer unprecedented high-speed capacity at 75Mb/s with near zero latency while flying over Europe, so passengers can enjoy an easy-to-use true broadband experience for internet streaming, gaming and other online services direct to their personal smart devices. In addition, with no moving parts on the aircraft, the solution is not only lightweight, but also easy to install, very robust and low maintenance.
“The on-time construction of our multi-beam satellite, as well as Deutsche Telekom’s ground network of approximately 300 new LTE sites across Europe, highlights the rapid progress we are making with the European Aviation Network. The coming together of Inmarsat and market-leaders across Europe, including Thales, Deutsche Telekom, Nokia, Cobham SATCOM and OTE, on this ground-breaking development will strengthen Europe’s position as a global technology innovator and support the continued growth of its aviation industry.”
Over the coming months, Inmarsat’s new S-band satellite will be put in a thermal vacuum chamber with no pressure to simulate the space environment and cycled through extreme high and low temperatures to ensure it operates nominally. Mechanical and acoustic testing will then replicate the launch environment, followed by final phase testing to compare any shifts or variations in measurements against the initial base line. Once these tests are complete, the satellite will be prepared for launch by SpaceX at Cape Canaveral in Florida, scheduled to take place in 2017.
Michele Franci, Chief Technology Officer at Inmarsat said: “We are really proud to have achieved this major milestone on schedule and look forward to the extensive testing, which will ensure the satellite is free from defects and will be able to survive the harsh launch and space environments that it will face. This will include an end-to-end verification of all components to ensure that every component is operating within its defined parameters.”
- Next generation MSAT system integrates radio, cellular and satcom networks for wider, more reliable and cost effective coverage
Las Vegas, Nevada | March 21, 2016– Cobham SATCOM’s innovative new EXPLORER MSAT-G3 will be shown on the Cobham booth at IWCE 2016 (booth #1055). An innovative new solution, EXPLORER MSAT-G3 is an IP-based Push-To-Talk (PTT) radio communications system that uniquely supports Satellite/3G/LTE/LAN backhaul and Land Mobile Radio (LMR) integration to provide seamless voice communication in any situation.
EXPLORER MSAT-G3 is the next generation MSAT solution utilizing the power of the Ligado Networks (former LightSquared) SkyTerra-1 satellite and ViaSat’s low-latency, IP-based L-band Mobile Satellite Services network. In the field, the system enables critical interoperable communications among homeland security officials, law enforcement, emergency responders, and public safety officials from various departments and agencies across the USA. EXPLORER MSAT-G3 extends coverage by combining satellite links and the existing cellular based networks, which can reduce terrestrial infrastructure costs while introducing significantly improved communications availability in any environment, when on the move. It is designed to cost effectively expand and augment LMR systems and as such, is compatible with many different brands of LMR to support lower capital costs.
The previous generation MSAT Push-To-Talk and Telephony voice is a satellite only service, but the EXPLORER MSAT-G3 offers a wealth of additional benefits by extending MSAT Push–To-Talk capabilities to hybrid data networks. With no user intervention required, the system automatically routes voice and data traffic via the most reliable network available. The solution is based on Cobham SATCOM’s advanced EXPLORER Push-To-Talk system and the all-new EXPLORER 122, a compact comms-on-the-move satellite terminal developed to operate over the Ligado SkyTerra-1 satellite network.
EXPLORER MSAT-G3 looks and feels just like a standard LMR system, utilizing a simple Push-To-Talk Control Speaker Microphone. The system is also as easy to install as a standard LMR system. Uniquely, up to two USB cellular modems (optional) can be connected to the PTT terminal to enable two independent cellular network connections. In action, EXPLORER MSAT-G3’s sophisticated routing functionality automatically switches between the available networks, dynamically selecting the most suitable one based on quality and availability at any time. This all happens seamlessly without user intervention.
“The combination of the new generation MSAT, using the SkyTerra-1 satellite and ViaSat’s Managed Network Services, and EXPLORER MSAT-G3 will be a step change in communication capabilities for US government and emergency services,” said Henrik Nørrelykke, Vice President, Land Business, Cobham SATCOM. “By automatically and seamlessly routing voice and data communication over the best available network the system extends coverage and provides a more reliable connection. It essentially delivers more value and better performance in order to make people on the ground safer and more effective in their work.”