Boeing military Inmarsat GX tests bode well for bizav

A helicopter's rotor bladesMilitary tests of Inmarsat’s Ka-band GX inflight connectivity by Boeing show that the system should also work well for the business aviation community.

Boeing recently completed its first tests of the military Ka-band service over the Inmarsat-5 F2 (I-5 F2) commercial communications satellite, positioned to serve the Americas.

The tests included successful sending and receiving real-time high-definition video through the rotating rotor blades on military helicopters. Boeing says this showed that Inmarsat’s Global Xpress could handle data up to 30Mbps — higher than previous industry tests on rotorcraft – without signal distortion or loss.

Further tests on mobile terminals showed how high-speed data can be transferred without degradation even in poor weather conditions and on terminals (antennas) “as small as eight-by-eight inches”.

Honeywell's Jack Jacobs and its tail-mounted GX antenna.
Honeywell’s Jack Jacobs and its tail-mounted GX antenna.

Given that the tail-mount antenna being produced by Honeywell for the business aviation community is a similar size, if not bigger, it would be reasonable to expect that similar speeds could be achieved from a bizjet.

The news that the helicopter tests were successful also bodes well for future business helicopter use.

High-speed inflight connectivity aboard helicopters has always been problematic.

Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband traditionally never worked terribly well under rotors until a recent upgrade. A new waveform that improved SwiftBroadband’s performance on helicopters was introduced a couple of years ago.

The new interleaving techniques that were introduced spread and re-arranged information packets across a longer burst, making them more resilient to blocking under a helicopter’s rotor blades.

Three Low Data Rate (LDR) bearers were introduced for helicopters, offering 60kbps (for connectivity in extreme link margin conditions), 150kbps and 300kbps transfer speeds.

But this is small fry compared with the 33Mbps achieved in Boeing’s tests.

Inmarsat’s GX connectivity is due to be launched globally around the end of the year. It still needs to get its third satellite into orbit, which will cover the Pacific area, but the other two (Inmarsat I-5 F1 and F2) are in position.

The launch of the third satellite is dependent upon Russia’s Proton launcher being cleared for flight after its launch failure in May.

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