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In-Flight Networks: Airlines Have Wireless Choices. Patrick Potega AirPower. WAEA Technology Committee 5 November 1999 San Diego, CA. Airlines Have Wireless Choices. Wireless cabin networks aren’t limited to radio IEEE 802.11 includes both Infrared and RF

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In-Flight Networks: Airlines Have Wireless Choices

Patrick Potega


WAEA Technology Committee

5 November 1999

San Diego, CA


Airlines Have Wireless Choices

  • Wireless cabin networks aren’t limited to radio
  • IEEE 802.11 includes both Infrared and RF
  • ARINC 763 already provides for Infrared, under IEEE 802.11
  • interconnectivity and compatibility compliance
    • A Strawman for a Supplement to ARINC 763
    • is being introduced as part of ADNS initiatives
  • Infrared meets or exceeds all RTCA SC-177 recommend-
  • ations for PEDs

Airlines Have Wireless Choices (Cont’d)

The Bluetooth specification has adopted the IrDA

(Infrared Data Association) standard for API (Application

Interface) sessions.

Both Infrared and Bluetooth RF systems will comply with

IrOBEX (Infrared Object Exchange Protocol) as the method

of synchronizing wireless devices.

Similar to the HTTP Internet protocol, IrOBEX allows both

quick connect/disconnect sessions, as well as allowing

wireless devices to maintain connections over a period of

time, even while the devices are idle.

IrOBEX means that applications such as e-mail, schedules,

database transactions, etc., that run under Infrared wireless

networks are also compliant with Bluetooth.


Airlines Have Wireless Choices (Cont’d)

  • Both Infrared and radio technologies deliver the same
  • results -- interoperable wireless network communications
  • Performance differentiators:
    • Infrared and RF both deliver 10 meter range
    • Ir delivers higher data speeds:
  • Bluetooth = 1 Mbit/sec
  • Infrared = 4 Mbps now; 16+ in works (max = ??)
    • Roaming
    • Multiple-users
    • Bluetooth Piconet = 8 users
    • Infrared = unlimited users
    • Both Ir and RF are non-directional:
      • “Diffuse” Infrared behaves just like RF
      • (no more “point-and-shoot” -- just be in the environment)

Airlines Have Wireless Choices (Cont’d)

  • Infrared v. RF performance differentiators:
    • Infrared doesn’t travel through walls, ceilings, floors, etc.,
    • so Ir inherently offers better privacy and data security
    • Light waves and radio waves co-exist without contention
    • Infrared does not interfere with A/C systems
      • Infrared networking hardware and software have been
      • successfully test flown on commercial aircraft
        • Infrared use in A/C fire extinguisher systems has
        • proven reliable and safe
      • At the FAA/ATA “RF Laptop” meeting, 50+ agency,
      • airline, computer, and cellular industry representatives
      • present all unanimously agreed that Ir poses
      • “NO SAFETY ISSUE.”

Airlines Have Wireless Choices (Cont’d)

  • For five years, major ground-based Infrared network installations
  • in daily use that support 650+ simultaneous users performing
  • complex and critical data transfers -- with virtually 100% reliability
  • Industry Support for Infrared:
    • Infrared is mature and stable technology: Infrared technology
    • is well-documented and is supported by standards that have
    • been in place for over 10+ years
    • Hundreds of Infrared-based companies: HP, Siemens, etc.
    • Microsoft Windows supports Infrared (NDIS)
    • Built-in Infrared ports in 95+% of all laptops shipped last year

“A wireless [RF] environment adds layers of complexity to

deal with the problem of phasing in and out of coverage, as

in ‘Did you get that last bit? And if you didn’t get that last bit,

where did the failure occur -- the device, the modem, the

server or the carrier?’”

What are the biggest factors currently holding back wireless

[RF] adoption?

“Security and cost are the key, but I’ve seen people struggle

with product selection as well. With so many technologies

available, how do I pick the right one? And once I feel like I’ve

picked the right one, how do I maintain an environment that’s

flexible enough for me to introduce new technology without

completely shutting out what I’ve already invested in?”

Interview with Ken Stoffregen, IBM Global Services regional services executive

Mobile Computing & Communications, November 1998

bluetooth presentation available
Bluetooth Presentation Available

These slides are a subset of a presentation about

Bluetooth RF technology. The full Bluetooth presen-tation is available by sending an e-mail request to:


Patrick Potega


(818) 340-7268 Voice

(818) 883-5706 Fax