APEXEXPO: Inmarsat gears up for GX Aviation and SB-S

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Frederik van Essen, Inmarsat Aviation’s Senior Vice President, Strategy and Business Development.
Frederik van Essen, Inmarsat Aviation’s Senior Vice President, Strategy and Business Development.

Inmarsat says around 100 narrow-body aircraft should be equipped with its GX Aviation Ka-band connectivity solution by spring 2017 and its SwiftBroadband Safety (SB-S) system is expected to receive approval in Q2.

The statement was made by Frederik van Essen, Inmarsat Aviation’s Senior Vice President, Strategy and Business Development.

Van Essen said that the GX Aviation service is currently installed on a couple of Lufthansa aircraft, but installations will ramp up over the winter as flight schedules allow.

Inmarsat and Rockwell Collins also announced another GX deal for up to 125 aircraft with a major European airline. Although neither company would name the carrier, “Get Connected” understands that it is most likely to be Norwegian Airlines.

GX Aviation

He said that the newly-launched global GX Aviation service, which is delivered by three Inmarsat I-5 satellites, can deliver up to 50Mbps, but airlines can choose their own data package and opt for lower speeds if they wish.

Van Essen was keen to point out that Inmarsat’s slower SwiftBroadband (SBB) service hasn’t been forgotten. Many of the world’s aircraft that are currently equipped with SBB will no doubt retain it, both as a back-up to their broadband connectivity service and for its upcoming safety services capability.

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Inmarsat has been trialling SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) on Hawaiian Airlines’ Boeing 767-300 aircraft) with Cobham Satcom’s Aviator S terminal) and has received excellent results.

Dan Smith, Systems Engineering Manager, Hawaiian Airlines, said: “We have over 50,000 data points now gathered from the performance of the system. And in fact, it’s working better than other alternative satellite communication technologies.”

The first set of results have been submitted to the authorities and it has now requested a second set. The FAA’s Performance-based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee’s (PARC) next meeting is in the second quarter of 2017 and Inmarsat is confident that it will get full approval for SwiftBroadband-Safety at that point.

Additionally, Airbus recently announced it will outfit their aircraft fleet with the Inmarsat SB-S solution from 2018 onwards, and Boeing announced a signed Technical Service Agreement with Cobham for SB-S earlier this year. Inmarsat says it continues to work with manufacturers to add SB-S to even more aircraft.

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