New agreement brings inflight connectivity solutions to China

07 April 2016: Inmarsat has signed a Heads of Terms (HoT) agreement with Beijing Marine Communication & Navigation Company Ltd. (MCN), which will lead to the creation of a joint venture (JV) to provide aircraft cabin and cockpit connectivity solutions in China’s fast-growing commercial aviation market.

The Inmarsat services that would be provided through the JV include Global Xpress (GX) Aviation and SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S). The final agreement is expected to be signed later this year.

GX Aviation will launch this year as the world’s first broadband in-flight connectivity solution with seamless, end-to-end global coverage. Passengers will be able to browse the internet, use social media, stream online videos, download files and more using their smartphones, tablets and other Wi-Fi enabled devices, with a similar quality of service in the air as they would receive on the ground.

Next generation

SB-S is a next generation cyber secure flight deck communication platform, enabling airlines to meet the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mandate for sub-15 minute tracking of all aircraft, Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC)’s four-minute mandate, Automatic Dependent Surveillance and electronic flight bag updates.

Combining L-band satellite connectivity with advanced avionics, it delivers speeds 10 times faster than existing Classic Aero services to provide airlines with cockpit communications for the digital age.

Leo Mondale, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “China is one of the world’s fastest-growing commercial aviation markets and when the proposed joint venture with MCN is finalised, the new company would provide the country with access to the most advanced cockpit and cabin connectivity solutions available today and in the future.

“Inmarsat and MCN already have a successful track record of working together and we congratulate them on the recent milestone of securing their basic telecom licence, enabling legal provisioning of passenger connectivity in China.

Long-standing partnership

“Extending our long-standing partnership allow us to build on the significant interest that we have received in the market to date, with Air China set to trial GX Aviation this year.”

Song Zhen, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for MCN, said: “Together, Inmarsat and MCN have been supporting important developments in the Chinese aviation industry for some time.

“Air China, for instance, operated the country’s first flight equipped with in-flight connectivity in 2013, using Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband to power the service on board its Airbus A330 between Beijing and Chengdu.

Joint venture

“With the introduction of next generation solutions, such as GX Aviation and SwiftBroadband-Safety, it is the perfect time to strengthen our partnership with a joint venture that is committed to ensuring China has access to the latest connectivity technology.”

MCN has been an Inmarsat partner since it was founded by China’s Ministry of Transportation in 1979. It unveiled an initial framework for the aviation joint venture with Inmarsat last year, while signing an agreement to bring the high-speed GX connectivity service to commercial and public sector organisations in China’s maritime, enterprise and government markets.

Inmarsat’s relationship with China dates back to its foundation in 1979 as an international, intergovernmental organisation, providing global safety and distress communications services for the maritime community.

Double-digit growth

Today, China is one of the fastest growing markets for Inmarsat’s mobile satellite-based voice and broadband services, delivering double-digit growth in the last five years.

Catering to the unique requirements of the Chinese market, Inmarsat has an office and demonstration lab in Beijing, equipped with various terminals and solutions to support product demonstrations and end-user training.

A satellite access station, owned and operated by MCN, is also located in the capital and exclusively handles all traffic from China over the Inmarsat network.

Strategic vision

Last year, Inmarsat welcomed the President of the People’s Republic of China, Mr Xi Jinping, to its London headquarters as part of his historic State Visit to the UK, reflecting the close working relationship between Inmarsat and China.

President Xi viewed Inmarsat’s Network Operations Centre to understand how the company is able to uniquely contribute to China’s One Belt One Road (‘OBOR’) strategic vision through the provision of critical global mobile broadband connectivity services, including the revolutionary new GX service.