SITA OnAir says interest in SwiftBroadband remains high

Stephan Egli, OnAir's Chief Commercial Officer.
Stephan Egli, OnAir’s Chief Commercial Officer.

SITA OnAir says that despite Inmarsat’s Ka-band GX service being just around the corner, there is no shortage of interest in its existing L-band SwiftBroadband (SBB) service.

Speaking to “Get Connected” at EBACE, Stephan Egli, SITA OnAir’s COO, said that it has a backlog of aircraft waiting to be fitted with SBB.

“The are hundreds of retrofit aircraft in the pipeline,” Egli said. “The backlog is massive.”

SwiftBroadband can typically supply about 432kbps to the aircraft, although its SB200 variant for smaller business jets tops out at 200kbps with a smaller antenna.

Many suppliers have now developed ways of combining or aggregating up to four SBB channels to give speeds of up to about 1.6Mbps, which is still short of the 33-50Mbps speeds promised by Inmarsat’s Ka-band GX Aviation service when it launches.

“A single-channel SBB connection may be more than enough for a bizjet or VIP aircraft,” said Egli.

Nevertheless, the appetite for increased bandwidth is insatiable and Egli says there has been a lot of interest in GX among airlines and business operators, especially in the Middle East.

“We are in discussions with a many, many airlines about upgrading to Ka,” Egli said.

SITA OnAir was also keen to to talk about its connected aircraft product line, more elements of which will be rolled out in due course.

In April it announced that Malaysia Airlines will be the first carrier to implement its global AIRCOM FlightTracker. Singapore Airlines has also recently signed up to the service too.

The ground-based software upgrade allows airlines to follow aircraft positions and identify any unexpected deviations or gaps in position reports. It uses multiple sources of data that guarantees tracking intervals of at least every 15 minutes for every flight.

Egli says around 14,000 aircraft worldwide are flying with at least one of the company’s products on board.

“We are building a modular approach to the connected aircraft,” he said. “Airlines will be able to choose what they want from the products we’ll have on offer, be it crew applications, cockpit applications, tracking, or aircraft health data.

“Our key strategy will be to ensure that we have the largest number of customers flying with the greatest number of products. Up selling and cross selling new features to an existing customer is going to be a lot easier than trying to find a new one,” Egli concluded.

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