Inmarsat’s global high-speed in-flight broadband service officially went live today for Jet Connex business aircraft users. The service similarly had gone live on October 25 for commercial airline GX Aviation users under a “soft launch” phase with Lufthansa.
“We’re really excited. This has been a huge satellite network in development for many years now,” said Kurt Weidemeyer, v-p of business and general aviation for Inmarsat (Booth 1007).
The service has been operational over the past year in a test phase, Weidemeyer said. “Without going live publicly, we have gone live. We have a number of aircraft flying already today [and] we have a lot more installations going on right now.”
Inmarsat expects 30 aircraft will be flying with Jet Connex service by year-end, and the organization has plans for STCs on 30 different business aviation platforms by the end of next year. “We could not hold back the floodgates any longer because customers are demanding the service,” he said.
During the testing phase, Inmarsat ensured seamless handoff between the spot-beam architecture and that the potential outage between handoff from satellite to satellite is no more than one minute. “A rigorous testing process for Jet Connex was successfully completed,” Weidemeyer said. “We logged thousands of flight hours, flew to every continent in the world and ran hundreds of tests to put the system under stresses that are well beyond that expected in normal business passenger use.”
Jet Connex provides global coverage through a network of three geostationary satellites. A fourth is slated to launch in 2017 to provide additional capacity. That launch was pushed back slightly as a result of the recent explosion of SpaceX, which Inmarsat uses to launch its satellites.
Jet Connex will provide seamless, reliable inflight broadband services at speeds that Weidemeyer says are found in the home. The service is about 30 times the speed of Inmarsat’s own SwiftBroadband, which has been widely adopted for international use and 100 times that of legacy L-Band service, but at a fraction of the cost.
Inmarsat has a number of distribution partners to market and sell the service. Honeywell, the master distributor of the service, is the authorized manufacturer of the hardware. The services will be initially offered through five packages, based on different tiers of speed. Top speed currently is 15 Mbps, but Weidemeyer notes that the hardware can accommodate more than 30 Mbps. The distributors are determining the pricing of the packages.
Currently, the installations primarily involve large business aircraft that can accommodate a tail-mounted antenna. In addition, a limited number of bizliners are fitted with a fuselage-mounted antenna. But Inmarsat and Honeywell are working with Kymeta, which has expertise in flat-panel antennas, for possibilities that will address smaller business aircraft.
Inmarsat, which has a goal of having the service on 3,000 aircraft by 2020, is hoping to eventually bring the service to the aircraft the size of a Phenom light jet.