Inmarsat Introduces Swift64 Airborne Data Services
Inmarsat announced that its long-awaited high-speed airborne data services will be available by the end of the year. The service, called Swift64, will allow passengers flying aboard satcom-equipped corporate aircraft to access the Internet and e-mail at 64 kbps, faster than most computer telephone modem connections. Swift64 is based on Inmarsat’s global-area network platform, said a spokesman. It will give business jet operators and airlines the ability to operate ISDN connections or mobile packet-data connections using existing Inmarsat satcom antennas. More than 1,000 corporate jets and about 80 percent of airliners worldwide are equipped with Inmarsat-based satcom systems, the company claims. Pricing information has yet to be announced. Inmarsat said airlines would be able to provide e-mail services to passengers in a “cost-effective manner” using the Swift64 data stream. It is unclear whether Swift64 access charges for corporate users will be based on per-minute fees, as is the case with satcom voice calling, or on the amount of data that is transferred. The London-based company said the technology used to power the Swift64 service requires only “minimal investment in additional airborne equipment.” However, a spokesman said no additional investment would be needed for aircraft antennas on satcom-equipped business aircraft, explaining that existing Aero-I, Aero-H and Aero-H+ antennas will support the Swift64 services in addition to the basic satcom services. Some type of airborne computer server, however, may be required. In response to increasing demand for airborne data services, Inmarsat is already considering faster data rates, possibly as high as 432 kbps, by 2004.