Data transfer boost in the offing for Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband

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Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband (SBB) aeronautical service, which supports in-flight GSM and wi-fi, will provide a far higher data transfer rate once the London-headquartered firm upgrades its network software to RAM 4.0 in December 2012.

The software drop will take the SBB service - which currently supports up to 432 kbps - to a rate of 700 kbps, said Inmarsat head of aeronautical marketing, Lars Ringertz last week at the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) conference and exhibition in Seattle.

With this update, Inmarsat will enable the use of SBB on rotary wing platforms. "Helicopter waveforms go in as well," said Ringertz, noting also that safety services via SBB will be available in 2013.

News that the data transfer rate of SBB is poised for improvement comes after Inmarsat recently started offering more attractive pricing for SBB, packaging it in such as way "that it can support sustainable passenger wi-fi internet access if you want to do that", said Ringertz.

From October, Inmarsat is also doubling to four the number of channels of SBB available per aircraft. Each channel provides a data rate of up to 432 kbps. The expectation is that airlines will ultimately dedicate three channels to the cabin and reserve one for safety services.