One day after visiting with Thales, which is using Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband aeronautical service to support its connected IFE solutions, I scooted on over to Inmarsat in London for a tour of the firm’s operations center and a candid one-on-one interview with chairman and CEO Andrew Sukawaty.
Sukawaty talked about the increasingly popular SwiftBroadband service and whether or not there exists a business case for Ku or even Ka connectivity.
Some key quotes from Sukawaty:
“The art of the doable is not always the art of the economically feasible…With Connexion, we had a situation where people saw what the art of the doable was, but they didn’t understand what the art of the economical was. And so this economic feasibility plays a big role in what we’re thinking about. I think that our customers, whether they’re airlines, airline customers, private jet customers, or government customers, I think what have come to depend on from us is that when we put something in place, its going to be there, it’s going to work and it’s going to stay there for a very long period of time, because the capital investments they make to put this on an aircraft or a ship are enormous. And to be tearing things out and putting something else in because the service has been discontinued or economically it didn’t work, is just not on for these kinds of customers.”
“I think at this moment in time, it [Ku-band-based connectivity] is not where it needs to be. Will it be where it needs to be in three or four or five years, possibly.”
“[SwiftBroadband] is the fastest growing aero service we’ve ever introduced. To put it into perspective…just over 10% of our revenues are aero, but it has been the fastest growing single sector for us. For many years it was flat. It has been in the last four or five years, where we’ve seen some fairly explosive growth…”
A quick note – Please view this video with the volume turned all the way up (and preferably if you’ve got speakers on high) because the Flip camera used for this interview is many good things (light and compact) but the audio, unfortunately, is not great. Also, due to YouTube file constraints, I was forced to cut some of my taped interview out, so expect a Part 2).