Aircell notches fleet order for SwiftBroadband

 - June 2, 2009, 11:59 AM

European fractional ownership hopeful Jet Republic has selected Aircell’s SwiftBroadband satcom systems for its entire fleet of Learjets in a contract that eventually could cover 110 systems. The contract is the largest to date for gear designed to connect with the Inmarsat satellite data and voice communications service.

SwiftBroadband will let Jet Republic passengers use Wi-Fi smartphones for e-mail in flight and to make voice calls almost anywhere in the world. The first SwiftBroadband-equipped Jet Republic Learjet 60XR is scheduled to enter service in September. The Aircell satcom system is produced in collaboration with Danish firm Thrane & Thrane.

Based in Lisbon, Portugal, Jet Republic will be a private jet “club” that plans to offer shared aircraft ownership and a private jet card. Flying exclusively with factory-new Learjet 60XRs, the company intends to serve 1,000 airports in Europe with guaranteed aircraft availability at as little as 24 hours’ notice.

“Jet Republic’s aim is to revolutionize the private jet experience, to create the aviation equivalent of a five-star boutique hotel,” said Jet Republic founder and CEO Jonathan Breeze. “By introducing BlackBerry and iPhone connectivity, our members are able to keep in touch with the world, even from 51,000 feet.”

Andrew Geist, senior vice president for business aviation solutions for Aircell, said the company’s SwiftBroadband satcom system is the “latest in affordable communications and a dramatic leap forward from earlier generations of technology.” SwiftBroadband supplies a maximum data rate of 432 kilobits per second to the aircraft anywhere in the world except over the poles. Prices for the “always-on” SwiftBroadband service are lower than those of Inmarsat’s slower Swift64 service, Geist noted.   

Sales of SwiftBroadband hardware are a small part of Aircell’s business. The company next month will start delivering hardware supporting its ground-to-air high-speed-data service for business jet operators. Unlike SwiftBroadband, these systems connect to the Internet only over the continental U.S. through a network of 92 cell sites, but at faster speeds (maxing out at around 3.1 megabits per second, or about six times faster than Swift-Broadband). Aircell also sells the high-speed-data service to airlines and offers a line of Iridium satcom hardware for global voice calling.     –