Inmarsat rolls out inflight connectivity solution

​By Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 8, 2019
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Inmarsat, a London-based satellite communications company for the aviation and maritime industries, interviewed in Shanghai to announce the further development of the Global Xpress (GX) Aviation system. [Photo courtesy of Inmarsat]

Passengers may no longer have to turn off their cellphones when flying, but Wi-Fi in the skies is still in its infancy. However, Inmarsat has the latest solution for inflight internet access. 

During a group interview held at the Shanghai Inflight Connectivity Technology (ICT) Conference, David Coiley, vice president of Inmarsat Aviation, introduced Global Xpress (GX) and stated that a number of airlines are scheduled to put the revolutionary system into operation. 

"In addition to allowing passengers to use familiar applications like Baidu and Alipay, a key part of the service is the emerging ecosystem of partners that provide dedicated services to passengers when they fly." said Coiley. 

Coiley explained that different communication frequencies have different strengths: the L-band frequency used by the SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) ensures reliable voice and data links as well as safety services in the air and at sea, while the KA-band is better for enabling fast broadband services on ships and aircraft. 

"So Inmarsat has taken a lot of the best bits of our 40-year history, and rolled those into GX," Coiley said. 

Each GX satellite has 72 beams covering the earth's surface, he said. In that way, they differ from the older KU-band satellites, which had much broader satellite beams leading to diffuse services covering wide geographic areas. GX, by contrast, has spots that cover a relatively small area ensuring more stable and abundant capacity. Six additional spot beams are also in place to provide additional coverage for smooth access around busy hubs or during peak air traffic hours. 

So far, Inmarsat has launched 13 satellites; four KA-band and nine L-band. The company will continue to launch additional satellites, with GX5 scheduled for later this year. The growth is to meet the demand of increasingly busy airspace, with passenger numbers expected to double by 2035. 

GX5 will deliver more capacity to Europe and the Middle East; areas where the number of passengers requiring connectivity is on the rise. Meanwhile, the company is continuing its 40-year-long partnership with the China Transport Telecommunication & Information Center to further explore the substantial market potential. 

Coiley shared that the company expects "a revolution" in regards to providing service to customers in China, specifically in implementing the GX system. He revealed that some Chinese aircraft have already adopted the GX service and have the system installed and ready to implement within the year. 

According to a report from the London School of Economics, the auxiliary revenue and operational savings combined for inflight connectivity could be worth US$45 billion to the global airline industry by 2035. The auxiliary revenue for aviation currently stands at less than US$1 billion.

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