February 25, 2008, Updated September 13, 2012

Starling technology lets users connect to satellites from almost any location in the sky.A small number of domestic flights in America went wireless last year and seasoned travelers released a collective sigh of relief. By the end of this year expect trans-Atlantic flights to become the newest frontier to go wireless, thanks to Israeli ingenuity.

Starling Advanced Communications has developed an antenna system that provides high-speed wireless connectivity on board flights crossing foreign and remote locations, and even over the sea.

Starling’s antennas, which communicate with satellites, are set to make their debut by the end of this year. This means no more 15-hour flights without your online games, emails, video conferencing and streaming MTV.

It does seem absurd that with all of man’s modern inventions, Americans have waited so long to have wireless and cellphone capabilities in-flight. But considerations of air transport safety made it vital that any device deployed did not interfere with a plane’s navigation system.

Starling has experience in this very arena. The company’s product was borne out of high-end military applications. Founded in 2003, Starling is based in Yoqneam and is listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Its largest shareholders include Elron Electronic Industries, Rafael Development Corporation, and Elbit Systems.

Starling technology lets users connect to satellites from almost any location in the sky. The device is suited to both the large airplanes used in commercial flights and smaller private jets, the company reports.

“Communications are a vital tool for people and businesses,” Michal Rips-Rosenzwieg, Starling’s marcom director, tells ISRAEL21c. Starling, she points out, has recently signed a deal with US-based EMS Defense & Space Systems (D&SS), a division of EMS Technologies, to make 21st century communication in the sky possible.

The joint agreement is for developing, manufacturing, and marketing a new ultra-fast satellite-based airborne antenna system for American commercial airlines.

As part of the new deal with EMS, Starling will provide the architecture of the antenna while EMS will provide the modem. On the table is Starling’s product, the MIJET family of antenna systems, which are, according to the company, the world’s fastest Ku-band antenna systems for in-flight applications.

The new deal with EMS will take in-flight communication and entertainment to new heights.

The goal is to sell to service providers such as Panasonic Avionics. Today, EMS’s Direct Broadcast Satellite antenna systems, sold through LiveTV, already deliver live TV capabilities to passengers flying on Jet Blue Airways, Westjet, and Virgin Atlantic.

Starling’s antenna will enable in-flight applications, such as Internet, VPN, mobile phone, PDA, email, video conferencing, live TV, and online gaming, while in the air.

The key element for in-flight broadband communications is the antenna, says Rips-Rosenzwieg. “Airborne platforms require lightweight, low profile and high performance antennas,” she explains.

“The antenna must be as efficient as possible in terms of gain, sensitivity, and interference profile within the limitations of the aeronautical environment,” she adds.

Unlike domestic airlines which can communicate with ground networks, Starling’s antenna are based on a Ku-band broadband signal and can communicate in the most remote locations, even while flying over glaciers in the middle of nowhere.

“It’s not so easy to be connected during all your flight and all flight routes,” says Rips-Rosenzwieg, pointing to northern pass routes that pilots sometimes take to shorten the journey.

Systems in the market cannot provide wireless solutions where some people need it most: during long trans-Atlantic flights for business or pleasure. “Ours is a Ku-band solution, it is very broadband and can stream live TV, the web, and provide global connectivity. Ours doesn’t interfere with other systems,” she notes.

Ku-band, which sounds a little like a Japanese rock group, is a technology now used globally for satellite broadcasting. It is ideal for high data rate communications, is less susceptible to electrical interference problems, and is available worldwide.

“On board an airplane is the last place on earth where people don’t have connectivity,” concludes Rips-Rosenzwieg.

Starling, aiming for the sky, will change that.


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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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