[cin] Aviation Networks

Terry Davis <terry.davis@ijetonboard.com> Fri, 06 July 2012 16:13 UTC

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From: Terry Davis <terry.davis@ijetonboard.com>
To: "cin@ietf.org" <cin@ietf.org>
Thread-Topic: Aviation Networks
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Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2012 16:13:27 +0000
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Subject: [cin] Aviation Networks
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For some background, today's global air traffic management relies on mostly very narrowband networks that operate from 2 kilobits to 40 kilobits (yes I do mean 40,000 bits per second); a few services run into the low 100's of kilobits..  Messages are formatted and routed between ground infrastructure and aircraft using modified OSI protocols from the early 80's.  And the services have rigorously qualified to provide safety of flight communications.

Every commercial aircraft in service around the globe uses these standards.  Modifications to any parts of the messaging or new message types are required to be completely "non-impacting" to aircraft already in service with equipment that does not support the changes.  Simply it cannot be upgraded.

International air traffic is governed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which is a United Nations organization operating under the Chicago Convention treaty of 1944 and is headquartered in Montreal.  ICAO establishes the standards by which International air transportation is governed.   ICAO governed by the 140+ member nations.

ICAO also provides and manages the addressing using OSI addresses for all digital communications with the aircraft ensuring that each aircraft has a unique designator and address.  And over the past decade we have been slowly beginning to publish new ICAO standards for the newer higher bandwidth communications services that will form the basis for the next generation of global air traffic management networks.  At present the high level definitions to utilize IPv6, IPsec, and PKI have been made.  Implementation guidelines will be developed over the next few years, defining addressing, address allocation processes, routing, certificate usages and formats, network services, etc.  This will definitely be a "critical infrastructure network".

During the short existence of the "Connexion by Boeing" service that provided the initial aircraft passenger Internet service, we discovered that aircraft flying international and long haul flights have a special ability to create problems in Internet routing.  As the aircraft's onboard networks transition of between ground stations during the flight, massive updates of the BGP tables, especially on intercontinental flights.  With just over a 150 aircraft in service, Connexion generated 20% of the churn in the global BGP tables.  And admittedly most all of the churn is due to intercontinental satellite ground station handoffs; not 3G/4G tower transitions.

In 2008, initial meetings were held with representatives from ICAO, ICANN, ARIN, FAA, and Eurocontrol all present.  Discussions left it clear that aircraft internet service, including the new next generation air traffic management networks, could be highly disruptive to the global Internet.  No formal agreements resulted though it was suggested that aviation needed to isolate the Internet from disruptions caused by their global aircraft network movements.

Ideally ICAO could define a "closed/isolated" network architecture that would both make their network operation easier to manage and isolate the Internet from any routing disturbances.

Two problems immediately come up with this path:

-          Current standards don't readily support the concept of closed or isolate networks.

-          And as any of you that operate large networks, especially globally with millions of nodes, know, they are always cross-wired somewhere.  And thus defining a scheme to protect the Internet BGP tables from disruption is going to be very challenging.  And don't forgot, there will not be a single network operator; most of the 140 nations will operate their own part of it.

Today there are more than 20,000 commercial aircraft operating around the globe; that is projected to be near 30,000 in a decade.  At the end of a decade, almost every single one of those 30,000 aircraft will have one or more separate Internet services onboard.

Take care

Terry L Davis, P.E.  |  Chief Scientist |  iJet Onboard
(Formerly: Chief Network Engineer| Connexion by Boeing)
o. 206.805.6263  c. 425-503-5511

PS: I also work with critical infrastructure as well; critical infrastructure network designers are looking for the same type of architectures.

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