21 June 2017: Inmarsat today announced a strategic partnership for its new European Aviation Network (EAN) inflight broadband service with leading aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
As part of a collaborative agreement signed at the Paris Air Show, Airbus will offer airlines a specialist retrofit solution to deploy EAN on the entire A320 family of aircraft, including A319s, A320s and A321s, which form the backbone of many leading airline fleets in Europe.
The agreement marks a further milestone in the development of EAN – the world’s first dedicated aviation connectivity solution to combine space-based and ground-based networks to deliver a seamless WiFi experience for airline passengers throughout Europe. It follows a separate announcement earlier this year that International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling, will be the launch customer for EAN. IAG has begun equipping its aircraft with the ground-breaking service and aims to have 90 per cent of its short haul fleet complete by early 2019.
EAN is based on a unique infrastructure which brings together a dedicated S-band satellite and complementary ground network to offer a fully integrated and seamless network delivering service quality and performance assurance not offered by satellite-only providers. Because of its unique design, EAN can also be scaled more easily and cost-effectively to match demand.
The network, which is on course to commence commercial services in the second half of 2017, also delivers world leadership in passenger WiFi technology to Europe. The satellite component, built by France’s Thales Alenia Space, is in French Guiana being prepared for its launch by Arianespace on 28 June. Inmarsat’s strategic partner Deutsche Telekom continues to make good progress on the construction of the complementary ground network.
EAN allows European passengers to use their personal devices for internet browsing, video streaming, gaming and other online services, with unmatched high capacity, low-latency performance. EAN’s robust and ultra-compact technology makes it uniquely qualified for the European airspace, where aircraft size, flight density and frequent aircraft manoeuvring are challenging to broadband satellite-only systems.
The Airbus retrofit solution consists of modification kits with all cabin network equipment required for EAN deployment. It also includes service bulletins (SBs) that detail the tasks and materials needed for installation and also certify the airworthiness of related modification work.
Airlines can procure the new solution directly through Airbus or Inmarsat, with both partners forecasting that more than 750 aircraft could be retrofitted with EAN over the next three years.
The agreement also contains provisions for airlines to utilise EAN for advanced aircraft maintenance and operations management, leading to increased efficiencies and important cost reductions.
Leo Mondale, Inmarsat Aviation President, said: “Our partnership with Airbus will offer clear advantages to airlines operating the popular A320 family aircraft. They will gain access to the new gold standard in passenger inflight broadband with a retrofit solution that comes from the aircraft manufacturer itself and has been specifically designed for ease-of-use. In addition to EAN’s function as a high-speed inflight broadband service, our collaborative agreement with Airbus also opens the doors to streaming data on the aircraft maintenance and operations side.
“Building on the selection of Inmarsat at the European level and the authorisations already given by European national regulators for the deployment of an innovative satellite and ground network, we are now close to delivering a unique connectivity service for Europe’s airlines and passengers; one that is superior to any other offering in the market.”