Air China first airline to test Inmarsat's GX Aviation

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Air China will be the first airline to test Inmarsat’s new high-speed in-flight internet service, GX Aviation.

The flag carrier has signed a memorandum of understanding to install equipment for the service on its Airbus A330 aircraft and begin tests in the second quarter of 2015.

The airline has 42 of the aircraft type in service today, Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows.

The GX Aviation system will use a constellation of three Ka-band satellites to provide up to 50Mbps of data downlink speeds to each aircraft.

The service is expected to provide a 60% improvement in download speeds compared to today’s internet connections, says equipment provider Honeywell. The manufacturer announced on 7 February that it had completed a critical design review of the antenna sub-systems and terminals that form the backbone of the new internet service.

“GX Aviation will undoubtedly establish new global benchmarks for passenger standards for the next two decades,” says Brian Davis, Honeywell Aerospace’s vice-president, Asia Pacific airlines. “True worldwide coverage and highest speeds are just some of the benefits that Air China can look forward to enjoying once the service comes into play in 2015.”

Air China was the first Chinese airline to operate a wi-fi equipped flight on 3 July, using Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband service on its A330s. GX Aviation is a much faster service that will support high-bandwidth applications such as streaming video.

The carrier is also doing a trial of Global Eagle Entertainment’s Ku-band satellite system on its Boeing 777-200 aircraft this year.