This week’s cover shot is from the NBAA floor and we feature a couple products we have heard about and thought our readers might find interesting. Since it came in fist, here is Sky Definition’s new 4k Ultra High Definition, 50″ Network Display. Sky Definition is a small Redmond, Washington company headed up by Bill Baltra Jr. and is exhibiting a device at the show. It is interesting that biz jet aircraft will probably become the debut arena for the Ultra HD technology. UHD comes in 2 flavors, 4K (2160p) and 8K (4320p) and you can learn more here. This amazing bulkhead display has a built in media server and can share media content with other network devices – it is a complete entertainment answer for business jets. Drop by booth C11240 if you are at the show.

The second story that rolled out at the 2013 NBAA in Las Vegas, NV is from Aircell. The company, already well known in the commercial IFE/Connectivity business, will now feature wireless DRM content delivery and air-to-ground connectivity to passenger devices specifically geared for smaller aircraft such as business jets. Today, they announced an entertainment solution that dovetails with their connectivity products… and a few more products and services that support them, not to mention some early sales activity.

The Aircell story comes via a discussion with John Wade, Aircell’s Executive Vice President and General Manager, in which he told IFExpress, “If you are going to be at NBAA you should stop by. We’ve got a BUNCH of really exciting announcements that Aircell will be be releasing… a few real game changers, and I’m not exaggerating!” The next thing we knew, we received five news releases detailing the announcements and here are the releases in summary:

1.      Aircell Introduces Gogo Vision. Business Aviation’s first complete, turn-key in-flight entertainment system. Provides on-demand movies, TV episodes, news, flight information and destination weather. Includes the industry’s first fully-automatic content updates. This announcement also has historical significance because it marks Aircell’s entry into the in-flight entertainment business.
2.       Aircell Announces Gogo Cloud. The industry’s first nationwide digital content distribution network, allowing fully-automatic wireless updates for Gogo Vision, Aircell’s new IFE service. Gogo Cloud is available at select Signature Flight Support locations – as well as for individual flight department facilities.
3.       Aircell Introduces the UCS 5000. The industry’s first all-in-one smart router and media server.
4.       XOJET Selects Gogo Text & Talk. Will be first full-fleet operator of the service, which allows passengers to call and text using their own smartphones – and their own mobile numbers.
5.       Clay Lacy Aviation Selects Gogo Text & Talk. Service to be deployed throughout Clay Lacy’s charter fleet, allowing passengers to call and text using their own smartphones – and their own mobile numbers.

To recap, Aircell has announced the following new product/service offerings and here are the IFExpress ‘Cliff Notes’ on their function:
· UCS is… A system that gives you all the next-gen router features you need – PLUS it’s a fully-functioning media server – all in a single box. Not just a router, not an empty server. The first all-in-one smart router and media server in Business Aviation.
· Gogo Vision is… A complete, turn-key in-flight entertainment and information service – on-demand movies, TV shows, news, flight info and destination weather. Not a “bring-your-own” solution. The first service of its kind in Business Aviation.
· Gogo Cloud is… A service that gives you fully-automatic Gogo Vision updates. It’s available in two places – select Signature locations and your own hangar. The first service of its kind in Business Aviation.
· Gogo Text & Talk is… A service that lets you use your own smartphone to call & text in flight – with your own number. It works over Wi-Fi with Gogo Biz service. The only service like it in Business Aviation.
· Gogo OnePhone is… A next-generation cabin handset.

Got it?

One new feature that we were still trying to wrap our minds around is the Talk & Text service offering. According to Aircell’s John Wade the service doesn’t behave like a microcell, but rather uses Wi-Fi and Aircell’s onboard digital data connectivity (via their ground-based or satcom-based connectivity) and not the user’s cell provider to make the connection – the PED becomes the handheld entertainment and connectivity device on the plane. “This,” John told IFExpress, “is the way Aircell (and many others) see the future of onboard entertainment and connectivity and it is certainly the future for business aircraft. Except for bulkhead mounted monitors, we see our approach as the future on business jets.”

Lest we forget, the Aircell folks have solved the problem of getting DRM-based hardware to the plane itself and has developed and begun implementation of a wireless content uploading solution that supports the new WI-Fi solution. Called Gogo Cloud, the service will be available at select Signature Flight Support facilities, as well as available for individual corporate flight department hangars. In flight the DRM content is stored aboard their server and obtains a key from a transmission to the ground to OK the service and log the planes content usage. This connection assures legitimacy and provides a database of usage for the operator.

Finally, during our interview with John, he offered to let IFExpress test the Aircell Talk & Text system by calling him from the ground while he was airborne on a biz jet which he was about to board. So, exactly two hours after we finished and were sure he was airborne we rang his cell phone, and rang and rang, and rang. Our call went to voice mail and we left a message. Naturally we thought the worst. It works sometime but not all times – “Typical, for airborne connectivity magic,” we noted. Two minutes later our phone rang; “Hello,” the voice said, “It’s John and I was on the phone when you called, but I got your message and am ringing you back. We are somewhere over Cedar Rapids at 36,000 feet and I can hear you fine.” “Hello John,” I said, somewhat shocked and taken aback. “I guess you win. This might just be the future.”

  • UCS 5000 is a single system that harnesses a full array of in-flight connectivity, entertainment and information

LAS VEGAS, NV [NBAA2013] | October 21, 2013 – Aircell (NASDAQ: GOGO), a leading provider of in-flight connectivity equipment and services to the business aviation market, announces the UCS 5000, the industry’s first all-in-one smart router and media server.

John Wade, Aircell’s Executive Vice President and General Manager, said, “Business aviation’s in- flight experience has never been richer, but installing and using all those capabilities has become quite complex. UCS is a single, backbone system that manages and simplifies the way passengers access today’s vast menu of capabilities. It provides not only all the needed router functionality and interfaces, but offers the optional bonus of a full-fledged media server, in-flight entertainment (IFE) service, and the industry’s only fully-automatic update capability – all in a single unit.

“Many UCS features are offered as options, so it’s easy for operators to choose the capabilities they need – without paying for things they don’t. With features selected for the mission, UCS is as cost-effective for a light turboprop with a simple Internet system on board, as it is for the most capable, ultra-long-range aircraft. Further, since many UCS features are available via software key, new capabilities can be added at any time, without requiring any additional hardware. It’s a very flexible solution,” concluded Wade.
Smart Router Functions
First and foremost, UCS is a smart router. It provides 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi service with access to all in-cabin wireless services with a single log on – eliminating multiple connections and manual switching. Additional key features:

  • Triple the in-cabin wireless bandwidth of traditional router solutions, permitting the simultaneous use of voice, connectivity and entertainment services without interruption.
  • Dynamic, simultaneous management of multiple voice and data networks – giving aircraft operators the option of prioritizing services and devices to meet their needs for performance, budget and convenience.
  • Management of on-board Iridium, Gogo Biz and SwiftBroadband services. Designed to manage services such as Ku-band, Global Xpress Ka-band and Iridium NEXT in the future.
  • An integrated 3G/4G cellular modem, providing optional Internet connectivity on the ground and enabling light, over-the-air IFE content updates.
  • Integrated PBX capabilities for seamless management of voice calls with wired/wireless handsets and personal smartphones, via Aircell’s optional Gogo Text & Talk service.
  • Optional data compression (WAN optimization), which maximizes the efficiency and perceived performance of SwiftBroadband.

Media Server Functions
UCS is the industry’s first smart router that is also an optional, full-fledged media server.

  • UCS is the hardware that delivers Gogo Vision, Aircell’s new on-demand IFE service. Gogo Vision gives passengers a complete, always-rotating library of the latest movies and TV episodes – along with news, flight progress information and destination weather – at their fingertips.
  • Passenger-to-passenger file transfer, screen sharing and in-cabin file storage capabilities are also available.

Fully Automatic IFE Updates

In another industry first, UCS includes Wi-Fi bridge capabilities, which allow operators to obtain fully-automatic IFE content updates when the aircraft visits any Gogo Cloud location. When an aircraft arrives, the UCS system automatically connects to the Gogo Cloud Wi-Fi signal and performs a complete content update – all without any intervention from the flight crew. Currently expected to be available in January 2014, Gogo Cloud will be available at select Signature Flight Support facilities, and individual flight departments can purchase equipment packages to bring Gogo Cloud capabilities to their own hangars.

Additional Information and Availability

By combining functionality with features traditionally offered through separate hardware, UCS can also reduce box count – simplifying operation while reducing equipment cost, installation complexity and weight. Available in January 2014, UCS is extremely small and lightweight – only 9.3 lbs and two MCU in size.