As it prepares for the imminent service entry of its Global Xpress (GX) satellite in-flight connectivity system, Inmarsat is confident it has laid the groundwork to ensure it can meet escalating passenger demand beyond the next five years.

Speaking at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg on 5 April, Inmarsat Aviation president Leo Mondale says the company is “a couple of months from cutting over” to GX service. While declining to “put a date on the calendar”, Mondale says service entry for the Ka-band satellite-based solution is “weeks off, not quarters”. Inmarsat believes its high-speed broadband service hits the market at a crucial time, as passenger expectations for in-flight wi-fi continue to soar.

“Wi-fi is becoming very quickly one of the most important considerations for passengers when choosing their airline,” says Mondale. “I’m the first to admit existing solutions have not met expectations. Passengers feel they’re being asked to pay too much for something that doesn’t work consistently.”

This will change as GX service starts to be rolled out across airline customers, according to Inmarsat. “[It] will provide the international bandwidth capacity needed to meet existing and near-term demand from airlines,” says the company. “As part of the aviation broadband roadmap, it also provides a global coverage underlay that will be built upon to meet future demand.”

In addition to three GX satellites already in orbit, Inmarsat has committed to a fourth – being built by Boeing – and has awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract for the first two satellites for its sixth-generation fleet.

“This is a market where products turn over every nine months, every 15 months, a very unforgiving market. We’ve embraced the principle of continuous improvement,” says Mondale.

In addition to laying out Inmarsat’s in-flight connectivity roadmap, Mondale announced the signing of an MoU with China’s Beijing Marine Communication Navigation Company (MCN) which he says will represent “the only legal source for both cabin and cockpit communications in China”.

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Source: Flight Daily News