A critical component of Inmarsat‘s European Aviation Network (EAN) is the grant of S-band spectrum from European regulators. That allocation requires the company holding the license to be European and uncertainty over Brexit leaves Inmarsat in a bind. Rather than risking the operation the group will rehome the EAN subsidiary to Luxembourg. The parent company will remain in England.
With effect from the date of Brexit (29 March 2019), Inmarsat Ventures SE, the entity which was granted the MSS 2GHz award and national licences, will no longer satisfy the establishment condition required pursuant to the MSS 2GHz award as a result of the UK leaving the EU. To this end, Inmarsat Ventures SE will be redomiciled in Luxembourg, meaning that the award and national licences will be retained at all times by Inmarsat Ventures SE.
Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom completed the network build out late in 2018 and are progressing towards aircraft trials and, eventually, entry into service with British Airways. Additional IAG member airlines will follow as the proving runs complete. A significant number of BA aircraft are carrying the gear in anticipation of activating the service. That testing and activation of EAN has been expected for more than a year now; the S-Band satellite was reported as “ready to support inflight internet services” in September 2017 with the system theoretically live later that year.
Separate from the Brexit logistics, which mostly seem to be paperwork formalities, Inmarsat faced a series of legal challenges from competitors Viasat and Eutelsat. Those suits continue to wend their way through the various jurisdictions. Inmarsat has won at every court that ruled thus far – most recently in a UK ruling in favor of the EAN solution from December 2018 – but Viasat continues to press for a different interpretation of the rules. The lawsuits do not appear to impact the testing or rollout thus far. What is causing further delays remains unclear.