Iridium Next is also poised to provide ACARS with broadband networking as a global service over the poles, but it will not be fast; only 1.2 or 1.4 megabits per second compared to cabin broadband connectivity, which can support 40 megabits per second or more, according to Teledyne Controls' Business Development Director Willie Cecil.
"The benefit of the Iridium system is it is much cheaper and lighter [compared with HF or classic aero]," he
Some 85 percent of traffic traversing ACARS is not needed in real time, says Cecil
, a reality that has led to frequently congested networks with the rise in the amount of data being transmitted from more advanced aircraft.
"ACARS doesn't prioritize the non-time-critical feeds from time-critical, so air traffic data communications can get jammed up," Cecil
The key innovation is going to be the ability to securely and seamlessly segregate these data paths to avoid network congestion, which already prompted the European Commission
to delay by five years its mandate for operators to equip their aircraft with Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) until February 2020.
"We need to segregate data by two things: one is by its importance, and the other is by its volume.
As a general rule, important data typically is not high volume; it's low volume," Cecil
predicts that aircraft will continue to send critical data in real time via ACARS, while high-volume data will be sent over low-cost links (air or ground) "as a background feed, and will be prioritized differently so it doesn't interfere with the high-priority data."
considers the industry "at that innovation point" where the cost of sending data is affordable enough to open up new innovation.