AIX: Leo Mondale says Inmarsat GX has had excellent start

Leo Mondale, Inmarsat's President Aviation.
Leo Mondale, Inmarsat’s President Aviation.

“Lufthansa is very satisfied with the performance of Inmarsat GX inflight connectivity, as are its customers – the net promoter scores from passengers using it are very positive.”

That was the message from Inmarsat Aviation President Leo Mondale at the Aircraft Interiors Expo as he updated journalists on the Ka-band connectivity system’s first few months of operation on Lufthansa’s fleet.

Mondale said that GX is now running on more than 60 aircraft in the Lufthansa family, including Eurowings and Austrian Airlines, and it is beginning to get meaningful data on how passengers are using it.

“It’s a huge pleasure to get some of our milestones behind us,” Mondale said. “You’ll now see us doing very well. We’re in a market that is like selling candy to a baby.”

He added: “The fact we have more than 1,000 aircraft in backlog at this point is an incredible milestone, given that GX Aviation only went live a few months ago.

“It is further proof that the inflight broadband revolution has truly begun; passengers are demanding quality connectivity and airlines are endorsing Inmarsat’s superior offering.”

Mondale said we are starting to see the availability (or not) of inflight connectivity affect passengers’ buying habits. “It is becoming a deciding factor when passengers choose an airline,” he said.

“Passengers prefer access to connectivity over in flight entertainment – we’ve never seen a clearer roadmap for the future.

“We are deeply engaged with additional airlines worldwide, so this really is just the tip of the iceberg. The message is clear: we are coming to a plane near you!”

In time the GX-equipped Lufthansa aircraft will be joined by others from Singapore, Norwegian, Air Astana, Air New Zealand, and AirAsia as rollouts progress. Qatar is also having GX JetWave equipment fitted to its Airbus A350s, although there has never been an official announcement from the airline that is adopting GX.

Mondale admitted there has been some initial teething problems. “We know what the technical bugs are and we know their fixes,” he said. “But we have to do a massive testing regime.

“We have a thousand aircraft in the backlog and thousands in the pipeline,” he said. “We will outperform Gogo’s 2Ku at a fraction of the price.”

He said the task now was to see where capacity was needed most and how it is going to be used. “We expect to see a very high demand for traffic around the hubs, with perhaps lighter demand further away,” Mondale said.

Mondale said that there had also said been much progress on its European Aviation Network project with the first IAG aircraft installs now completed.

He said there are more than 300 aircraft under contract to EAN and the S-band Europasat, which will support EAN, is due to launch this summer.

Eclipse and EAD Aerospace have also completed the STCs required for the air-to-ground connectivity equipment on the Airbus A320 family.

Mondale said that its test flights on the 4G LTE-based system have shown a 10% performance gain over what had been calculated and expected.

Of course, GX Aviation for the commercial sector is not Inmarsat’s only product. It also has Jet ConneX – it’s Ka-band offering for the business aviation market.

And the slower, but well-established SwiftBroadband, which is seeing a rebirth through its SwiftBroadband Safety (SB-S) product, currently undergoing certification and rolling-out later this year.

Inmarsat is also close to launching its fourth I-5 satellite for GX. Its planned final orbital position is a secret for commercial reasons, but is widely expected to be somewhere over the Asia-Pacific region.

Plus Inmarsat has plans for future I-6 satellites, which will be dual L- and Ka-band, to support both SwiftBroadband and GX Aviation at once.

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