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Advanced on-ground testing for airborne GX solutions now possible

(26 June 2018 - GateHouse Telecom) The aviation industry is rapidly increasing its digitization and connectivity efforts to improve passenger experience as well as to lower cost of operation. The satcom test leader, GateHouse Telecom, has now developed new technology customized for airborne GX solutions that has pulled testing new applications down to earth.

Today, on-air satcom solution testing and demonstration is the most common way for developers to assess satellite communications solutions and applications. Thorough testing and testing of corner cases can be both expensive and time-consuming if not altogether impossible.

Many are counting on the Inmarsat Global Xpress network to gain the competitive edge. However, testing new GX applications, as any other satcom enabled application for that matter, usually requires an airplane at your disposal, and still you cannot control conditions. But a new product now makes it possible to perform testing of GX solutions on the ground, saving time and money while allowing developers to expose applications to a far wider range of scenarios than what is possible to reproduce during a flight. The Danish satcom-company, GateHouse Telecom, has applied new features to the company’s flagship product, the Global Xpress Link Emulator (GLE), which are specifically targeted the challenges characterizing the aviation industry.

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GateHouse Telecom's Global Xpress Link Emulator (courtesy: GateHouse Telecom)

“When performing on-air testing for aircraft-applications, you must bring a terminal and antenna with you onboard the airplane, and you must maintain line of sight to the satellite throughout the test. Furthermore, you cannot control weather conditions and expose your application to rough weather, such as thunder and rain. But with our new Aero-features, developers can emulate a flight trip and expose their solution to different challenges that may occur during a voyage. This enables an efficient way to test and document solutions response to common distortions,” Svend Holme Sørensen, Product Manager at GateHouse Telecom, said.

With the GLE, testing is not only brought down to earth, but also indoors, as line-of-sight is not needed.

“The new GLE features are also a valuable tool for sales situation. Developers and re-sellers can set up and demonstrate their applications to potential customers indoors, e.g. at tradeshows and conferences. All they need is the GLE, a laptop, internet connection and cables,” Svend Holme Sørensen said.

Inflight Connectivity

Connectivity is a must-have for most airlines today. 82 carriers now offer inflight Wi-Fi, which is a 17 % increase since last year, according to the 2018 Wi-Fi Report by Routehappy. Airlines across the globe are building their connectivity and are making considerable investments in GX solutions to enhance the passenger experience. The german carrier, Deutsche Lufthansa Group, was among the first to secure a GX powered end-to-end connectivity solution that enhances the passenger experience and brand value. Their visionary approach has placed them among the world’s leading digital airlines.

“As we move further into the era of ‘Connectivity’, the year 2018 and beyond is likely to see the aviation industry incorporating more and more onboard systems and hereby normalizing inflight Wi-Fi for passengers,” Thomas Jensen, Director at GateHouse Telecom, said.

Specialized Features Tailored for Flight Applications

The GLE is an off-air test tool that emulates a Ka-band connection with realistic bandwidth and latency. It is already used by leaders in the global satcom market, such as Honeywell, VT iDirect and Inmarsat. Gatehouse has now built on the GLE-technology and applied new features designed specifically for developers servicing the aviation industry.

Satellite switching and handover imitates satellite switch, which is of course necessary for fast-moving applications such as GX solutions on airplanes.

“The GLE allows developers to regulate bandwidth automatically by fading profiles, which can be adjusted by fade-in and out to a given level or programmed prior to testing, to fade over time at a given average level, standard deviation and rate of change. It all depends on the parameters the user wants to test,” Svend Holme Sørensen said.

With the new features, the GLE can also manipulate SNR levels to emulate poor bandwidth caused by bad weather conditions or excessive use.

“The new features make the GLE more flexible and able to fully emulate any situation an application might experience when used on an airplane. With the GLE you can interface to a Network Service Device (NSD), so developers can imitate a scenario that force the application to switch between GX and BGAN. This mode can be used to test the NSD, but also all applications attached to it,” Svend Holme Sørensen added.

Last but not least, an open API provides developers and testers with a programmable interface for automizing test setup, execution, monitoring and extract of test results.

Even though the new features are primarily built for developers servicing the aviation industry, they can also be used to test other software solutions, such as applications made for developers and users that are exposed to rough weather conditions, for instance maritime operators or Southeast Asia during the monsoon season.

New GLE features:

  • Satellite Switching and Handover: imitates when the airplane switch satellites
  • Fading Profiles: regulates bandwidth both automatically and manually.
  • Bandwidth adapted to SNR: emulates poor bandwidth – for example caused by bad weather conditions.
  • NSD: imitate a scenario that force the application to switch between GX and BGAN.
  • Open API: a programmable and highly adjustable interface.

About GateHouse Telecom

GateHouse Telecom is a wholly owned subsidiary of the GateHouse Holding Group that also holds the subsidiaries, GateHouse Logistics and GateHouse Maritime. For more than a decade, GateHouse Telecom has provided the satellite communications industry with a range of market-leading software products for commercial, government and military use. With deep knowledge and understanding of global communications infrastructures and platforms, GateHouse Telecom also offers consultancy services for software, hardware and system integration as well as for the preparation and evaluation of international tenders.