Communications flying high
Kors van den Boogaard, IATA, Assistant Director, Communications, Navigation and Surveillance, talks to InterComms about IATA’s work on developing a roadmap for the airline industry’s future communications needs.
Kors van den Boogaard, IATA, Assistant Director CNS, has been working with IATA for 16 years. His main responsibility is the development of the airline industry's policies for Communications, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) and radio spectrum management. He represents IATA in various fora such as ITU, RTCA and AEEC. Kors is the IATA-nominated member of the ICAO Aeronautical Mobile Communications Panel (AMCP), Surveillance and Conflict Resolution Systems Panel (SCRSP) and Aeronautical Communications Panel (ACP).
Before joining IATA, Kors worked in various functions for the Dutch Civil Aviation Administration. He also served in the Dutch Radio Airforce as an avionics specialist. Kors has a BSc in Electronic Engineering and Economics.
Q: What is happening in aeronautical communications?
We also need to take advantage of modern digital technology for our communications needs. Did you know that, in this day and age, pilots still call out frequency channels and change frequencies manually. Analogue systems are becoming more difficult to support and are prone to interference.
Aviation must catch up to the mobile communications industry. Ironically, we were the first to use mobile communications around 1930. We are using basically the same communication procedures as then!
IATA is developing a communication roadmap on behalf of Member airlines, driven by stringent requirements to support air to ground communications for Air Traffic Management and Airline Operational Control (AOC). Our ultimate aim is an integral aeronautical communication service supporting all airline communication needs, although this will take a many years to achieve.
Q: What is the current status of the roadmap?
For almost every service, we have a variety of communications systems and providers. Air traffic service providers operate their own services. Airlines use SITA and ARINC (Aeronautical Radio Incorporated) for the operational and administrative communications. For internal communications, airlines have their own telecom lines or lines leased from a provider, often SITA and ARINC. Airlines often have their own networks as well.
Q: What role do SITA and ARINC play?
Q: What are the long term goals?
Q: What happens at the moment?
Q: How do you bring in new providers?
Q: What is IATA’s role in this?
Q: When did the airlines’ interest in attracting new communications providers begin?
Airlines pay $40 billion a year for ATC and airport services in the form of user charges. A ballpark estimate of the proportion of that figure going to communications services is 20%, or $8billion for ATS communication services alone.
Q: What is the first step to your overall goal?
For this first step we have various options. We have the ‘VHF Digital Link (VDL) Mode 2’, a data link system now deployed by SITA and ARINC for air traffic services on a limited scale, but required in most European countries by 2009. As you can see, we do not move fast in terms of technology!
Q: What are the regulatory implications?
Air/ground bandwidth has always been limited. Now airlines want increased bandwidth to offer onboard telephony to passengers. Therein lies our problem; obtaining bandwidth is a competitive issue. Passenger services are a selling point for airlines to attract more passengers.
Q: Could you envisage a single service provider ever appearing?
In an ideal future, IATA Member airlines could take advantage of personal mobile communication services. But for the service providers, there needs to be a business case for this higher, safety-critical, quality of service.
Q: Do you expect providers to modify products or will you use off-the-shelf-technology?
Commercial companies like Iridium need to introduce new systems every six years to compete, while for aviation the cycle has traditionally been 20 years. Here is a further challenge.
Aviation has an arrangement with Inmarsat for satellite communications in which we piggyback services, since we cannot afford our own dedicated system. For terrestrial communication we still have dedicated systems. The idea is that we integrate satellite with terrestrial services.
Q: What are the big issues that remain?
In a single infrastructure one of the issues is whether you can prioritise safety communications over non-safety communications. At the moment the communications industry is not interested, although they might be forced to do so because of lack of frequency resources. Passenger communications will be the selling point to the commercial providers and we would like to piggyback safety communications with them.
Q: When could we expect change on the ground?
Q: When will the Roadmap be endorsed?
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