Insight | Inmarsat and Satcom Direct connect with customers


Inmarsat and Satcom Direct connect with customers


Inmarsat’s Head of Business Aviation, Kai Tang, highlighted the past, present and future of inflight connectivity for the business aviation market during Satcom Direct’s 2022 CwC event.

Satcom Direct (SD), a specialist business aviation solutions provider, recently hosted its annual ‘Connecting with Customers’ (CWC) event in Orlando, Florida, bringing together hundreds of attendees from around the world for a series of industry updates, innovation showcases and technical training sessions.

Inmarsat Aviation was proud to be a platinum sponsor of the event, which also provided a perfect opportunity to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our partnership with SD. In addition, Kai Tang, our Head of Business Aviation, provided an insightful presentation that outlined our market-leading service offering and cutting-edge future innovations.

“Our mission is to build networks that provide reliable, consistent connectivity to mobile customers, wherever and whenever you need it in the world,” he explained to the audience. “For 40 years now, our customers have relied on us to deliver on what we promised. That doesn’t just mean launching satellites, although that’s a big part of our job and we love to talk about it. The other part is the ground infrastructure, which includes the earth stations, the racks and racks of equipment inside gateways and the fibre connectivity. In addition, you cannot forget Satcom Direct’s infrastructure, which isn’t just parts and pieces, but also their people, their processes and their expertise. All of that is how we believe you get a world-class service.”

Our market-leading l-band and ka-band networks

Providing a summary of our fully-owned and operated ELERA L-band and GX Ka-band networks, Tang stated: “ELERA has been the backbone of aviation services since 1990 when we first launched Classic Aero for safety services. Swift 64 was introduced in 2002 followed by SwiftBroadband in 2008. We continue to evolve, with SwiftBroadband-Safety now launching with a host of new capabilities. And we’re not done with ELERA. In 2021, we launched a multi-million-dollar investment to upgrade our network infrastructure, which will lead to much more efficient operations and terminals, as well as higher speeds. To cap it off, we also launched our first satellite in the Inmarsat-6 (I-6) series last December and look forward to launching its sister next year. This ensures continuity of our L-band service through to the 2040s and beyond. Watch this space, we have some really exciting products being developed right now for business aviation and government, we can’t wait to tell you about it in the next few months.”

Tang added that Inmarsat’s Jet ConneX (JX) Ka-band business aviation inflight broadband solution was launched in 2016 and has become a market leader. “We have been thrilled to watch its popularity, with more than 1,100 customers to date and counting. Ka-band is naturally optimised for mobility. We built it on the same principles as ELERA, its reliable, consistent and only for mobility. Like SwiftBroadband, JX is linefit with all the major OEMs, who stake their reputations on every piece of gear they put onboard,” he said.

“And we invest heavily every year to continue to earn and keep their trust. And we’re not done with our Ka-band network either. We have a fully-funded technology roadmap that includes the first I-6 satellite, featuring a dual Ka-band and L-band payload, and a further six satellite launches in the coming years. We’re not launching these just to keep up with demand. We have a history of building ahead of demand and expect this will provide more than enough through 2030.”

New JX terminals, such as SD’s Plane Simple Ka-band Antenna System, will bring even more capability and fully harness the advantages from Inmarsat’s evolving network. During the CWC event, we shared the news that the terminal has moved one step closer to commercial service, after successfully communicating over the air with an Inmarsat satellite. A complete prototype unit of the advanced new terminal is scheduled for completion later this year, followed by design verification, testing, certification and its commercial service introduction in 2023.

“Not only will we have smaller terminals, but we also expect faster speeds in excess of 100Mbps,” stated Tang. “And don’t worry, we won’t leave any of our existing customers behind. They too will be able to experience the higher performance at lower cost per bit for years to come.”

A multi-dimensional re-imagining of mobile connectivity

“We are not satisfied with one dimensional solutions. We are not even satisfied with two dimensional solutions. We’re on the cutting-edge amongst our peers of re-imagining mobile connectivity,” continued Tang in reference to ORCHESTRA, our unique global, multi-dimensional, dynamic mesh network, which will bring Inmarsat’s L-band and Ka-band networks together with low earth orbit satellites (LEO) and terrestrial 5G to form an integrated, high-performance solution, unmatched by any existing or planned competitor offering.

ORCHESTRA allows capacity to be boosted in high-density areas such as at airports, eliminating congested network ‘hot spots’ and ensuring the connectivity needs of aviation customers continue to be met well into the future, with capacity scaled directly to match their requirements. “We build on the key pieces that we have, the L-band and Ka-band networks, both of which are already global and fully redundant, each of which provides a particular kind of capability that the other network does not,” explained Tang.

“We are adding two new layers, a terrestrial layer – 5G – complementing the space layer, to get additional capacity in concentrated zones. By doing that, we unload the space segment, and make it much more efficient, everyone gets better service because the space segment is being used much more efficiently. On top of that, we add a targeted LEO layer, it doesn’t need to be a complete, full thousand site constellation, it just needs to be enough to allow us to extend this LEO layer to enable hot spot service capability,” he concluded.

“ORCHESTRA takes the best elements of each available technology and blends them into a reliable service that will deliver exactly what customers need. The best part is that you don’t need to do anything to your aircraft today. Keep doing what you’re doing, keep using Inmarsat and when these new services are launched, we will detail how you can benefit from them.”