When Thales won the contract to provide the inflight entertainment system on Emirates‘ new Boeing 777X fleet it was something of a coup, displacing Panasonic Avionics from that role. That displacement trend will continue to the inflight connectivity fitting on those aircraft. Inmarsat announced today that Emirates will fit the 777X with Global Xpress (“GX”), the Ka-band solution offered by the London-based satellite operator and connectivity provider. Thales will provide the integration services on the GX implementation. Emirates currently has 150 777X aircraft on order with deliveries expected to begin in 2020.
Emirates, Thales and Inmarsat have invested heavily in the new generation Wi-Fi solution and will work together to meet increasing demand for Wi-Fi on board. Broadband connectivity speeds coupled with Thales’ AVANT IFE system will provide a further boost to Emirates’ award-winning inflight entertainment system, ice.
The deal is significant for several reasons. First off, Thales holds on to its position as the integrator for the implementation. That makes some sense given the AVANT integration requirements but Inmarsat also partners directly with airlines in some cases. Thales recently lost its position as integrator on the JetBlue/ViaSat implementation so adding these planes into its portfolio is a nice win.
It is also a significant deal for Inmarsat’s GX platform, adding 150 aircraft to the order backlog. Not only is it 150 new aircraft but it is 150 new aircraft based in Dubai, just a couple hundred miles away from Qatar Airways‘ home base in Doha. When Qatar Airways announced its partnership with Inmarsat the provider included a new GX satellite (I-5 F5) as part of the deal. That satellite will now need to serve two major aircraft fleets and hubs in very close proximity. The main flight paths for the two carriers will be very similar, particularly into Europe and the Indian subcontinent. Fortunately the new F5 GX satellite, launching in 2019, is expected to deliver significantly more bandwidth than the four GX birds currently in orbit.
Worth noting – and it was not at all clear in any of the official releases – that this deal only covers the first 50 of Emirates 777X deliveries.
Only 50 tails have been awarded. We'll earn those remaining 100 tails when the customer is ready!
— Aero Flack (@scbrecken) November 15, 2017
With well over 1000 aircraft now in the order book Inmarsat’s GX platform is undoubtedly a significant player in a congested market. Continuing to secure new orders gives it further strength, should the oft-predicted industry consolidation ever actually materialize.