April 12, 2016 – Global mobile satellite communications provider, Inmarsat, has outlined its long-term aviation broadband roadmap, intended to ensure that rising demand for fast, reliable and global passenger in-flight connectivity is met for the next five years and beyond.
The launch of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) Aviation solution this year creates a high-speed passenger connectivity solution, delivered through a single operator. Initial airline customers for GX include Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Jazeera Airways.
The GX network, which entered commercial service in December 2015, currently includes three Ka-band satellites and will provide the international bandwidth capacity needed to meet existing and near-term demand from airlines. As part of the aviation broadband roadmap, it also provides a global coverage underlay that will be built upon to meet future demand.
Inmarsat has already committed to a fourth GX satellite, which is completing construction and testing by Boeing and will provide additional network capacity. The company has also awarded Airbus Defense and Space a contract to build the first two satellites for its sixth-generation fleet, the first of which is scheduled for delivery by 2020. The new fleet will feature a dual-payload, with each satellite supporting both Ka-band and L-band services. Based on current services and demand, the Ka-band co-payload will augment the capacity of the GX network over busy air routes and regions, while the L-band capacity supports a new generation of aviation safety services.
Another vital component in the roadmap is Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network (EAN), which will be the first aviation passenger connectivity solution across European airspace to integrate an advanced satellite network and LTE-based ground network; the latter will be operated by Deutsche Telekom. Aircraft will switch automatically between satellite and terrestrial connectivity using an onboard network communicator for optimal service delivery. The first commercial EAN trials are expected in mid-2017.
Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation, said, “Inmarsat’s focus on global mobility is unique in the industry and our aviation broadband roadmap will ensure we continue to grow ahead of demand, with the ability to efficiently move capacity where it’s needed, when it’s needed.
“This is extremely important, as airlines operate complex and constantly evolving route networks, each with their own unique requirements, and they need to look beyond a short-term answer to in-flight broadband. Inmarsat’s commitment to building on its GX payloads, in addition to the European Aviation Network, underlines the fact that we have the infrastructure, focus and investment power to deliver the ultimate aviation connectivity – now and in the future.”
Airlines will connect to GX Aviation using the new JetWave terminals being produced by Inmarsat partner, Honeywell Aerospace. Over 300 passenger aircraft have already committed to installing the system, with more to come. Certification for JetWave is currently underway for 26 different aircraft models across commercial, business aviation and government end markets, with approvals received for Boeing 757 and Bombardier 5000 and 6000 aircraft in recent months.
Final ground and flight testing is now underway and according to Inmarsat, initial results have successfully validated GX Aviation’s ability to deliver high-speed broadband connectivity to support video streaming and live radio, online conference video calls, multiple file downloads and more over land and water.
Inmarsat is also collaborating with Honeywell Aerospace and Kymeta, a company that develops flat-panel antennas for satellite communications, to produce a new, higher-speed Ka-band wireless antenna. The aviation antenna, which is exclusive to Inmarsat, is intended to bring another step change in faster connectivity and higher quality broadband service to aircraft. In addition, its small and light flat-panel design will reduce weight and drag on the aircraft.