Satellite communications for business aviation used to be a one-horse race. But now, with connectivity established as a must-have rather than an option among operators, original satellite system operator Inmarsat is finding its dominance increasingly challenged by the likes of Iridium and Connexion by Boeing.

Inmarsat-based airborne equipment is still a good business for the avionics manufacturers, however, and Honeywell (booth 406) is here to promote its latest system to the high-end business jet market. “We’re emphasising our MCS-7200 and its upgrade path to the 432Kbit/s-per-channel SwiftBroadband service that Inmarsat will introduce next year,” says Tom McDonald, Honeywell marketing manager for long-range communications products.

MCS-7200 is due for its first aircraft certification – on the company’s Cessna Citation demonstrator aircraft – in the middle of the year. Offering up to six voice channels and four of today’s Swift64 64Kbit/s data service, MCS-7200 is based on the successful MCS-4000 (three voice channels) and 7000 (six voice channels), which are certificated on a variety of Bombardier, Embraer and Gulfstream types. “Our principal business aircraft position is on the Gulfstream G400 and G500,” says McDonald, “and we’re shipping around 150 units a year into the corporate market as a whole.”

The four Swift64 channels in MCS-7200 will be upgradeable to a pair of SwiftBroadband channels. “Everybody’s focus now is on the path to SwiftBroadband, and we’ll be ready to offer the upgrades as soon as Inmarsat makes the service available,” says McDonald.

The upgrade will be supplied to operators in the form of a new software load. The Swift64 units in MCS-7200 are made for Honeywell by Ottawa-based EMS Satcom. “We worked with EMS to ensure that any hardware changes needed to support SwiftBroadband were already in the Swift64 box,” says McDonald. “We have committed to make the upgrade when the time comes, and we’ll provide the software free of charge.”

McDonald expects to see MCS-7200 on the market until 2012-13 at least. “It depends on how soon people start to get interested in integrated communications,” he says. In the meantime, Honeywell will continue to work with its other technology partner, Thales Avionics in the UK, on further development of MCS-7200 but all-new products will be executed with EMS Satcom alone.

Source: Flight Daily News