Selecting an aircraft high-speed data (HSD) system for in-flight connectivity is not unlike choosing a cell phone or internet access provider. Options abound, and naturally, so does confusion.
Most of the confusion seems to be with terminology, particularly the difference between "HSD" and "Wi-Fi". HSD is the data pipe to the aircraft, like the cable connection for your home internet. Wi-Fi connects to that data pipe, providing the equivalent of a wireless network inside the aircraft.
There are several HSD solutions available, with several equipment and service providers vying for attention.
A ground-based solution provides the fastest connection speed, similar to what you would experience in a home or office environment. But it doesn't activate until an aircraft is above 10,000 feet and is only available within the continental US.
Satellite-based solutions offer slower connection speeds, but they don't come with any altitude limitations and are accessible worldwide. However, these systems require a fuselage-mounted antenna, which some aircraft just can't accommodate.
Charts of connectivity options and global coverage from Arinc and Iridium are available at Mary Kirby's Runway Girl blog with Flightglobal.
Upgrade paths can also help narrow the decision, as the majority of an aircraft's existing equipment can be left intact, helping to reduce costs and downtime.
There are a lot of variables to consider. While the industry waits for FAA guidelines and documentation, keep in mind this is a fairly new technology to business aviation. Questions? Duncan Aviation's Avionics Installations Sales Reps can help.
More details on the topic, including observations from our industry experts, will be available in the next edition of the Duncan Debrief due out this summer. Stay tuned!