Stay Connected: New In-Flight Communications Technology

March 20, 2015
Satcom Direct has answered the call for connectivity and worked since its inception in 1997 to deliver solutions that keep people connected

Establishing true cabin connectivity has long been an objective of business aviation. Passengers have demanded “office in the sky” functionality, but that technology has had to evolve in tandem with all of the ever-changing devices that keep people connected to their world, including laptops, phones and tablets.

Satellite Beach, FL-based Satcom Direct has answered the call for connectivity and worked since its inception in 1997 to deliver solutions that keep people connected – on land, at sea and in the sky. Satcom Direct’s first focus was aviation communications, and that remains the company’s primary business today although they have expanded into the land mobile and maritime markets.   

But it all started 1997 when Satcom Direct pioneered the Global One Number (GON) service – a technology that allowed callers on the ground to reach any handset on an aircraft in flight by dialing a single, 10-digit telephone number, no matter where the aircraft was located.

The Global One Number was followed by AeroV, the first Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution designed and built specifically for aviation. AeroV enables a secure connection for easy and efficient communication during flight and works with the Yonder, Inmarsat and Iridium satellite networks.

Satcom Direct now has taken technology one step further with the launch of GlobalVT. Available later this year, GlobalVT expands the capabilities of AeroV to include the use of personal smartphone numbers for calling and SMS messaging during flight at any altitude, anywhere in the world.

“Accomplishing simple smartphone use is easier said than done. Smartphones from multiple vendors with differing versions of operating systems make providing a common and easy user experience difficult. Adding to this challenge is that terrestrial-based networks vary in the ways in which they support voice and messaging,” says Jim Jensen, Satcom Direct founder and CEO. “But we’ve developed a solution.”

Available for aircraft equipped with the Satcom Direct Router (SDR™) and GlobalVT service, passengers will be able use their smartphone and their number to text and talk onboard their aircraft. Similar to land-based mobile connectivity, the new service will be offered to clients under a monthly subscription model. The service will be available globally, mirroring that of ground based services.

“A person can receive SMS texts and voice calls on the aircraft anywhere in the world when someone simply dials their smartphone number,” says John Peterson, Satcom Direct’s director of product management.

GlobalVT will work through all phases of flight, take off to landing. The passenger will be able to use his or her own smartphone’s contact list for dialing and text messaging. The service will be available over multiple satellite networks and will first be introduced for iOS devices followed shortly by androids. Recipients on the ground will view incoming calls and texts as coming from the user’s personal number.

Callers on the ground don’t need any special applications or tools. In fact, they won’t even necessarily know the person they’re calling is on an aircraft. Which, for the call recipient’s sake, is why it’s handy that Caller ID will work as well.  

So how does it work?

The Satcom Direct technology group has developed a proprietary codec specifically designed to provide the highest quality voice service over a satellite service provider. This codec was created for aircraft communications over satellite networks, and it overcomes the known problems associated with latencies and broken conversations that can occur over satellite networks. The result is a clearer, crisper voice quality that closely resembles what a user would experience today on the ground.

“This proprietary codec, combined with our industry-first technology that allows a person to use their personal phone number in an aircraft moving over 400 miles an hour, makes Satcom Direct the first company to finally deliver this service to passengers worldwide,” says Peterson. “Executives can comfortably and confidently participate in conference calls and dramatically increase their productivity while traveling. For the first time in our industry, passengers can use their phones as easily on the aircraft as they can in a car.”

Peterson and his team have been testing GlobalVT using Satcom Direct’s own aircraft, a Cessna CJ3. He says, “I am getting even more excited about GlobalVT after the testing onboard the aircraft. One of the developers participated in a meeting via conference call while in flight. We had Florida, Colorado, France, and the aircraft on the call without any issues. The developer also sent me text messages from the same phone while participating in the conference call. Another team member on the aircraft was working on his computer while connected via vpn into the home office server.”

Voice, texting and data communications were tested during the flight using the Satcom Direct Router or SDR. The SDR can manage multiple applications simultaneously over multiple networks. There were no service interruptions and a good voice quality was maintained.

“When customers are flying with the GlobalVT service, all of their text services will work,” says Peterson. “As an example, if I have Viber, WhatsApp, iMessage, and SMS on my iPhone, all forms of communication are received as they would be on the ground with the exception of SMS text which will be received exclusively inside the GlobalVT app while on the aircraft.”

Keeping data secure by providing proactive protection

Delivering communications solutions is one aspect of connectivity, but keeping those communications secure is another. To address this challenge, Satcom Direct has expanded its capabilities by launching a new data center solutions provider, TerraCom Direct.

“Information security is a huge issue for businesses and individuals, and it’s especially critical while in flight. TerraCom Direct is the key to safeguarding connectivity and communications streams, and better securing the missions of our customers,” says Jensen.

Headquartered in Viera, FL, TerraCom Direct’s 25,000-square-foot facility is built to Tier III standards, incorporates state-of-the-art data center construction techniques, and is designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. The facility not only hosts and protects clients’ critical business technology systems and information, it secures Satcom Direct aviation, maritime and terrestrial-based services. Whether data traffic is generated in the air, on the ground, or on the water, TerraCom Direct is constantly monitoring in an effort to detect and report potentially malicious activity to customers. 

For aviation clients, TerraCom Direct automatically monitors the information generated on an aircraft and allows passengers to securely connect to their company’s network. It constantly monitors and reports potentially malicious activity, and it identifies patterns or anomalies that indicate data may have been compromised. It provides enhanced security for data transmissions, to and from an aircraft, no matter where it is in the world.

“The best aspect of our new technology is that your work is done when your flight is done,” says Peterson. “You don’t arrive at your destination with a load of work, that’s become more urgent, waiting for you. You’ve been able to communicate securely through your entire flight. With GlobalVT, you don’t miss a moment.”  

For more information on Satcom Direct visit

Ann Hein is a journalist specializing in the business aviation industry. Hein worked for Jet Aviation for 19 years in a series of progressively responsible positions culminating in the role of director, PR and communications for the Americas. In that role, she directed and implemented all external and internal communications initiatives and was the spokesperson for Jet Aviation to the media in the U.S. Prior, Ann served as director, marketing & employee communications for Jet Aviation St. Louis (formerly Midcoast Aviation). Ann is an honors college graduate of the University of Missouri at Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She also is a life member of the Golden Key National Honor Society. She can be reached at [email protected].