Carrier NFV Infrastructure NEWS

SmartSky Flies High With New NFV Tools from Brocade, VMware

By Steve Anderson April 12, 2016

In-flight broadband access may be one of the most desirable new phrases to hit air travel since “no more Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) checkpoints. The difference is that “in-flight broadband access” is actually happening. SmartSky Networks is one company bringing broadband to flights, and it's got some new network functions virtualization (NFV) help from Brocade and VMware to help pull it off.

SmartSky is bringing in Brocade's Virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) system, and setting it to run on VMware's vCloud NFV system. The combined force will connect over 250 cell sites located throughout the continental United States and provide a complete air-to-ground network for users traveling throughout the country. SmartSky could have used a standard hardware-based network, but scaling such a network up has long proven difficult. With Brocade and VMware, SmartSky can instead use a software-based approach and get its network out farther doing more.

With Brocade's tool, the network gets new session and data management systems along with more independent control structures. This reduces the need for redundancy to fully cover the area, and makes the total cost of ownership lower as well. With vCloud NFV, meanwhile, users get added stability and flexibility, which means a better overall implementation of the network as a whole.

VMware's vice president of operations for the telco NFV group, David Wright, commented “SmartSky is representative of just how transformative NFV can be to customers, enabling them to completely rethink how to build and design services to meet their requirements. VMware and Brocade continue to align our solutions in the market to make NFV architectures simpler to design and implement, enabling our mutual customers to accelerate NFV adoption.”

Getting connectivity to a moving aircraft is a tall order by any stretch, but it's also a desirable trait. People enjoy being able to access email and the like from just about anywhere, and going into a communications “dead zone” for several hours has little appeal. It can be merely dull, or it can actually cost lost opportunity, but either way it really isn't a help. We've seen in-flight connectivity projects get put to use before, and seeing one more get into the market helps ensure that the others will keep prices down lest competitors step in. That's good news for the traveler, who gets lower costs and more options from greater competition.

We may well enter a time when in-flight connectivity is as taken for granted as hotel room connectivity thanks to advances like the SmartSky / Brocade / VMware project. That's going to be a good time for travelers, and for the companies that provide this connectivity alike.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing Writer

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