Insight | HBCPlus: a new future-proof SFE linefit option for inflight connectivity


HBCPlus: a new future-proof SFE linefit option for inflight connectivity


Simplicity. Performance. Reliability. Flexibility. 

As transformative moments for the aviation industry go, Airbus announcing its new IFC solution, Airspace Link HBCplus, earlier this year was revolutionary. For the first time, airlines can now purchase connectivity with the simplicity and assurance of an Airbus Supplier Furnished Equipment (SFE) line-fit catalogue option. 

HBCplus is available on all Airbus linefit aircraft types, as well as retrofit. It initially encompasses Ka-band services with Inmarsat selected as first Managed Service Provider (MSP) with GX Aviation, all delivered via a new certified terminal and radome, and built as part of the aircraft at assembly.

For Inmarsat, this announcement was particularly important as we were chosen as the programme’s first MSP. This selection is a testament to our status as a leading provider of global, seamless, high-quality onboard connectivity - and a further endorsement of GX Aviation, our inflight broadband solution which enables best in class digital passenger experience.

Reflecting upon what is already proving to be a successful partnership, Niels Steenstrup (shown right), President of Inmarsat Aviation, says Airbus’ decision was a significant reminder of Inmarsat’s capabilities and credentials. “We are honoured that Airbus chose Inmarsat as the first Managed Service Provider for this transformative connectivity catalogue solution and is putting its trust in our award-winning GX Aviation service across all of its aircraft programmes,” he explains. “Inmarsat is relishing working closely with our partners Airbus and Safran Passenger Innovations to deliver continuous innovation for airlines and their passengers worldwide.” 

Niels Steenstrup, President, Inmarsat Aviation

A connectivity solution that delivers for airlines – and passengers 

Looking to the future is key. Although a clear trend before the pandemic, the events of the last three years have only accelerated passenger expectations when it comes to inflight digital services. Indeed lack of inflight Wi-Fi can now be considered a deal breaker. 

In our 2022 Passenger Experience Survey, 77% of the 11,000 global passengers surveyed view inflight Wi-Fi as critical to their experience – an increase of 40% compared to before the pandemic. In fact, the importance of Wi-Fi to the passenger experience is so high that 82% of passengers say they are more likely to travel with an airline again if quality Wi-Fi is available.

It should come as no surprise therefore that what Inmarsat can deliver as an MSP for airlines is crucial. We can enable a range of consistent, engaging and differentiated digital experiences, not only enhancing passenger satisfaction, but further amplifying an airline’s brand. 

This is where we really come into our own. Inmarsat offers so much more than simply connecting an aircraft to our satellite network. In fact, we deliver and manage a comprehensive suite of services that are crucial to an airline’s digital offering and, in turn, vital to their customers’ passenger experience. 

Covering a range of services – from security to retail by way of support and finance – we deliver control: determining who can connect to what and at which speed. We ensure online payments are processed efficiently and securely; we take care of data protection and customer care. And via our connected customer experience platform, OneFi, we can work with airlines to design the connectivity portal through which passengers can access these rich and personalised digital services. 

By offering this on the customer’s behalf we ensure that an increasingly important aspect of an airline’s overall brand experience is best-in-class and designed to meet the sky high expectations of today’s – and tomorrow’s - passengers.

“By continually striving to improve performance, our role as an MSP is transformative.” Says William Huot-Marchand, Inmarsat Aviation’s Senior Vice President of Inflight Connectivity: “With HBCplus, Inmarsat will provide all of the connectivity service to the passengers. We will manage the quality of the experience, ensure the airline SLAs are delivered effectively, and ultimately deliver internet onboard the aircraft which is as good as they receive at home.”  

And in a market where airlines are demanding simple, seamless integration across their fleets, HBCplusdelivers the peace of mind they need on the underlying connectivity technology, allowing airlines to focus on shaping their own digital strategies and partner ecosystems.

A partnership of industry leaders

HBCplus is driven by deep collaboration. By bringing together three of the industry’s pioneering onboard passenger experience organisations – Airbus as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for the aircraft integration, Inmarsat for the satellite connectivity services and experience, and Safran Passenger Innovations (SPI) as the terminal provider – this innovative connectivity solution benefits from years of experience and complementary expertise. 

We’ve been working with SPI for a number of years on previous terminal generations. It was imperative to select the most reliable and future-proof technology for this project. This led to the choice of ThinKom’s 2517 terminal as the hardware component for launch. Thinkom’s proven antenna technology is custom built for Ka-band services, delivering high data throughput and reliability. This is complemented by aircraft fuel savings thanks to the antenna’s lower drag radome. 

A catalyst for realising the potential of IFC

In what is still a growing market, HBCplus is ideally placed to help unlock and realise IFC’s vast potential.  As André Schneider, Airbus VP Cabin & Cargo Programme, concludes: “We are excited to offer airlines a new connectivity service solution that will provide improved speed and reliability for passenger experience and more flexibility. Together with our leading industry partners we are pleased to enable future connectivity business opportunities in the context of the Airspace Link open ecosystem.” 

HBCplus is revolutionising the way airlines buy connectivity. It’s future proofed to enable them to deliver a best-in-class passenger connectivity experience, today, and tomorrow, and create true brand differentiation. From the simplicity of the purchasing process and the flexibility it delivers for airlines, to the unmatched reliability and performance of Inmarsat’s connectivity, it represents the start of a bold new chapter for inflight connectivity.