Rockwell Collins is close to deciding which connectivity service to use as it leverages its purchase of Arinc to provide end-to-end solutions in the cabin, and it appears it is not just evaluating Ku-band versus Ka-band satellite-based solutions.
During a recent media briefing in London to discuss how Rockwell Collins plans to integrate Arinc’s activities into the group – which includes setting up a new Information Management Services (IMS) business to be led by senior vice-president Jeff Standerski – the company said it aims to provide an “end-to-end connectivity solution which is unique to Rockwell Collins”.
Standerski tells RGN it is Rockwell Collins’ “intention to provide future connectivity in the cabin”, noting that there are “a couple of technologies out there that we’re evaluating now”. He adds: “We will make a determination very soon on an airline transport connectivity solution.”
Arinc already has an inflight Wi-Fi solution known as Cabin Connect, which is being trialled by Virgin Atlantic on Airbus A330 aircraft. Cabin Connect operates over Inmarsat’s L-band satellite-supported SwiftBroadband aeronautical service, which Arinc has previously said is provisioned to migrate to Inmarsat’s forthcoming Ka-band service.
But Andy Hubbard, the new IMS unit’s managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, tells RGN that the group is “assessing options”, noting: “I wouldn’t say we’re just looking at Ku and Ka”. He also mentions Iridium Next, but declines to disclose further details. “Discussions are progressing well,” says Hubbard, although he is unable to provide a timeframe as to when a decision might be taken.
Virgin Atlantic is still trialling Cabin Connect but is currently going through a tender process for its future connectivity needs, a contract which Rockwell Collins is “vying for”, says Hubbard.
Rockwell Collins had previously been in the running to develop, produce and distribute user terminals for Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band aeronautical service. However, negotiations between the two companies ceased back in 2012 and the contract was ultimately awarded to Honeywell Aerospace.
Standerski says of Rockwell Collins’ negotiations with Inmarsat that “the two parties couldn’t reach business terms”, but he adds: “I don’t believe we lost out at all [to Honeywell].”
He notes that when a decision is made on a connectivity solution, Rockwell Collins will be “providing service” rather than selling terminals.
Honeywell in 2012 signed a distribution partnership agreement with Arinc Direct, enabling the company to sell GX service to the business aviation community.