Airborne Wireless Network – The Next Gen Alternative Eco-friendly ‘Low Satellite’ Connectivity Technology
As communication technology evolves behind the never-ending demand for high-speed connectivity around the globe, the search for new ways to bridge that elusive gap calls for some much-needed innovation, as well as creative thinking outside of the box. Just when you thought satellites, cell towers, and ground cable had the earth covered, think again. There is still one untapped area that hasn’t been utilized to its full potential which lies somewhere between terra firma and the stratosphere. Airborne Wireless Network is in the process of changing that while making history.
Located in Simi Valley’s tech industrial region, northwest of Los Angeles, Airborne Wireless Network (OTC-ABWN), a communications innovator in wireless connectivity, has been gearing up to integrate commercial aircraft into the network equation. When you factor in the costs and the inherent risks of the overall networking and telecommunications industry, an airborne network only makes sense. With such strategic potential and ease of feasibility, it makes you wonder why billionaires like Sir Richard Branson of British Airways didn’t conceptualize this technology decades ago.
THE PROBLEM WITH SATELLITE AND TOWER TECHNOLOGY
Every technology has its costs and risks when it comes to R&D, installation, maintenance, and upgradability…not to mention, deconstruction or taking obsolete infrastructure out of service. Some more costly than others. Here are some of the pros and cons of existing communications technology and the hardware currently being used.
- Beam coverage of strategic areas of the earth is quite effective and immense.
- Beams can be recalibrated and even turned off and on as needed.
- Subscriptions and access to this orbital equipment by a variety of communications entities in many countries offset the costs.
- The incredible cost and investment in the building and launch of any satellite network is by far the greatest hurdle. It can take years to construct them at the tune of half a billion dollars per system, not counting the ancillary hardware and ground supporting infrastructure to integrate the systems. Since about 2016, companies like ViaSat has been focused on a five-year plan to invest $1.4 billion in three new KA band satellites in an attempt to envelop the entire planet. Quite a gamble when you consider the risks and technological obsolescence. By the time a company’s satellite hardware is near completion, advancements in operating systems and engineering have been known to redevelop nearly overnight rendering the project obsolete before it gets off the ground. Launch delays and overruns are also always a factor missing expected deadlines that affect the bottom line. Then there is the ultimate risk of launch failure when the entire project goes up in smoke. Space-X and NASA have shared that pain many times.
- Another formidable enemy in the satellite world is space junk. Depending on the elevation from the Earth’s surface, most all orbiting craft are subject to over 500,000 pieces of launch garbage from about 4 inches (10 centimeters) to large rocket fuel boosters weighing many tons hurling at lethal speeds of up to 17,000 mph. (That’s 10 times faster than a bullet from a high power rifle.) NASA and NORAD monitor and track nearly every piece of space trash that poses a threat. NASA speculates that we could potentially see a billion fragments of scrap by 2025. The threat is real and not getting any less dangerous or risky. By the way, that falling star you saw was more likely a small piece of space junk making its way into the atmosphere.
- A real problem rarely addressed in the world of satellite connectivity is ‘latency‘ or ping time. This phenomenon occurs when you experience a delay in the communications signal during transmission. It’s mostly noticed during VoIP phone calls that have satellite linkup or during ‘twitch’ gaming that requires real-time connections to compete. High elevation satellites are notorious for this as the signal needs to travel from your computer, through a cable network, to a gateway portable transmission dish, up to the satellite well above 10,000 miles from Earth and then back down again. Although the latency hesitation is generally no more than .75 of a second, it’s enough to frustrate banking and especially stock traders when milliseconds can translate to millions. You can check your ping time latency with a speed test if you experience this delay.
- Lastly, there is a satellite life expectancy factor to deal with. Satellites do not last forever. Batteries fail over time, fuel runs out, and again, technological obsolescence via hardware dates a satellite system into retirement. Few, if any satellites can be retrieved for maintenance or hardware upgrades. The average life span of most satellites is about 5 for LEO’s and 15 years at best for higher capacity HEO (highly elliptical orbital) satellites. With technology advancing more rapidly than ever before, it doesn’t make sense to keep a system in orbit that is obsolete within 5 years. Its a neverending gamble between cost and ultimate efficiency over time. Then there is the problem with what to do with a spent satellite after decommission. They are either burnt back into the atmosphere (hopefully over a large body of water) or pushed out further into a higher orbit. Translation: …more space junk. Neither solution sounds very safe, ecological or conclusive.
CELL PHONE AND COMMUNICATIONS TOWERS
- Towers can be permanently constructed strategically where and as needed at $500,000 on average in less time than satellites.
- Cell phone service and connectivity are much clearer and dependable when in proximity.
- Cell towers provide superior EMS response capability.
CONS: If erected too close to residential areas and businesses, the Radio Frequency radiation energy and microwave exposure emitted from these towers can pose a health risk. Although there is constant controversy over this issue, there is compelling evidence that remains a threat to humans. Even the telecommunications industry and the FCC require mandatory posted warning placards at every cell tower site. A few years ago the Firefighters Association petitioned and won an overall ban on cell tower installations on or near fire stations citing an alarming degree of health issues to firemen. That alone should tell you something about this silent threat.
- Cell Towers are subject to environmental exposure, especially high winds, and lightning strikes. Every year lightning damages numerous tower structures and hardware at a hefty cost passed on to consumers.
- Towers that do catch fire due to lightning or short circuit malfunction cannot be extinguished with water immediately. Due to such extreme voltage used in this hardware, they usually have to burn out on their own while posing a threat to homes and businesses when they are installed in populated areas.
- Cell towers are still somewhat costly and can take months to erect while overcoming licensing and real estate/land lease hurdles and FCC approval. Installation costs can easily run over $500,000 or more. The newer 5G towers could reach an even higher price tag.
- Although effective in rural areas, signals break up where terrain and ‘line-of-sight’ (LOS) propagation is a factor. Deep canyons and mountainous elevations are spotty at best. Other obstructions and inclement weather can also play a factor.
- Lastly, let’s face it, many will agree that cell phone and other communications towers are sightly and just plain ugly. More and more are installed every year making many skylines distracting and cluttered. They don’t blend into the environment very well and find themselves being erected in the most unlikely locations and communities. Many areas of the country have fought to rid power and cable lines along streets burying them out of view only to be replaced by cell towers mandatorily erected with no way for cities to opt out.
THE AIRBORNE WIRELESS NETWORK ADVANTAGE
Founded in 2011, Airborne Wireless Network specializes in commercial telecommunication applications. It acquired this disruptive patent technology in 2016. On June 25, 2018, they successfully demonstrated field testing integration of their proprietary algorithm flight control software using their Infinitus Super Highway℠ system hardware and GE Aviation’s Inertial Navigation Units (INU). This ABWN field test proved the accuracy of how the Infinitus Super Highway can pinpoint two in-flight aircraft within one meter.
Airborne Network technology is not entirely new. NASA and the military have been developing and integrating a form of airborne connectivity for a variety of communication applications. The US Air Force is currently expanding their Global Information Grid (GIG) to include and connect all three major domains of warfare: Terrestrial, Space and Military Airspace. The military Airborne Network (AN) is designed to connect and utilize all airborne assets using line-of-sight AN nodes integrating space and surface networks to provide a seamless communications network. Up until now, in-flight connectivity has been omitted from this communication platform due to aviation tech constraints. Airborne Wireless Network will become a commercial wholesale carrier network provider with the first and only true in-flight broadband pipeline using commercial aircraft worldwide.
- A fraction of the cost to build and deploy in relation to cell towers, and especially satellites.
- Installation time is measured in days (or less), rather than months or even years as with conventional satellite communications systems. A complete ABWN system can be installed on aircraft during routine maintenance downtime allowing aircraft to stay online, in service and in business. Time is money.
- No space junk threat. A very expensive risk to consider. No foreign debris is found in our atmosphere to impede connectivity. Gravity takes care of it. What you may not realize is that our planet’s orbital space is over-polluted already. What global space agencies bank on is “out of sight, out of mind”. No one can see the clutter of space debris circling our Earth but it exists and only continues to get worse.
- Aircraft have the highest safety record over all other transportation vehicles. Mechanical redundancy, as well as a highly skilled commercial pilot workforce, keep human error at a minimum and aircraft in the sky. Satellites are unmanned and unpredictable.
- Direct TV and other satellite entertainment platforms are already being used on many commercial aircraft today. ABWN would be repeating and reflecting signals rather than using incoming signals on the aircraft. Existing application is single point, not multi-point.
- Airborne Wireless Network technology is never obsolete. Operating systems and newer more efficient data transmission hardware can be upgraded immediately unlike satellites that are often outdated before they even launch. Emerging technology can be implemented without extensive aircraft downtime. Maintenance, upgrades, and updating of both hardware and software can be accomplished during an aircraft’s layover time. As new hardware becomes available, it can be switched out during routine maintenance. However, once a satellite is launched, only operating system software is upgradeable at best.
- Environmentally friendly and eco-advantageous. Airborne Wireless Network may be the only true environmentally viable solution to space junk. Tens of thousands of aircraft take off and land every single day leaving no trash or debris behind. With flights averaging 2 hours or less and speeds of 500mph+, RF and/or microwave exposure, if any, is greatly minimized.
- ABWN features a man-made constellation of commercial aircraft creating a mesh of nodes with a multi-point link system providing redundant data paths connecting information simultaneously. If one node goes down or is inaccessible due to weather, the data is re-routed via surrounding aircraft nodes, as well as maritime vessels and land based transponders. By doing so, there are no longer any ‘single points of failure’ that exist as in satellites and cell towers.
- 100% Real-time performance…not ‘store and forward’ antiquated technology.
- Relatively no latency delays in signal transmission. Real-time connectivity.
- A perfect solution to rural EMS rescue situations. Coverage to some of the most remote areas of the world could be made possible even with 240 miles between aircraft.
CONS: It will take some time to get enough aircraft fitted for transmission of the nodes. Contracts with participating commercial carriers for the size of this project is daunting. Like cell towers over the last 30 years, you have to start somewhere. They were sparse at best.
- Initial expense to deploy is also high but doable over time. Manufacturing costs, aircraft lease agreements, and trained installation personnel will require some serious cash.
- Spotty coverage in the beginning. There will be times in the initial rollout phase when there may not be enough aircraft to complete the mesh node connection. It will also depend on how many participating ships and ground transponder support locations exist to make it fully functional. Getting over that hurdle may take many years to realize.