Thousands of aircraft around the world could soon see their in-flight connectivity performance boosted six-fold. Inmarsat‘s new SwiftJet offering will supercharge the company’s L-band constellation. The upgraded solution offers a 2.6 Mbps link to a massive range of aircraft, nearly anywhere on the planet, using Inmarsat’s ELERA network.
Most notably, that includes the more than 4,500 business jets flying with the SwiftBroadband (SBB) solution today. They could see an immediate jump in speeds on board with a simple terminal hardware upgrade.
Using the equipment that is already on the aircraft, this is a very simple upgrade that very quickly enables us to use the existing spacecraft, the existing ground infrastructure, and the existing network to deliver a six times upgrade in speed.– Kai Tang, Inmarsat’s Head of Business Aviation
Existing infrastructure, massive improvements
The new SwiftJet solution takes advantage of Inmarsat’s decades of experience delivering L-band services. Inmarsat will, essentially, take its existing spacecraft – augmented with two more I-6 satellites scheduled to enter service next year – and existing ground infrastructure and use the spectrum more efficiently.
Most significantly, aircraft owners will not need to change the antenna hardware already installed atop the aircraft. With a simple swap of a line card installed on terminals in the aircraft, the upgraded performance will be immediately available to existing installations.
This approach delivers continuity to the company’s existing subscribers, while the new satellite launches will ensure service delivery well into the next decade. Moreover, the L-band capacity on each I-6 satellite will be substantially greater than Inmarsat’s 4th generation spacecraft currently in orbit. The I-6 iteration delivers 50% more capacity per beam in addition to unlimited beam routing flexibility.
When SwitftJet enters commercial service in early 2023 it will deliver the fastest ever speeds over L-band.
Broadly available, nearly broadband
Inmarsat’s head of business aviation Kai Tang notes that the SwiftBroadband terminal today “has STCs and certifications on practically every aircraft, large and small.” Those same certifications will extend to the SwiftJet platform, making it almost immediately one of the easiest and most widely available in-flight WiFi solutions, particularly for the business aviation market.
The compact antenna also delivers an advantage for the L-band solution, especially on smaller business jets where larger antennae are not a viable option. Tang also notes that it “is the same terminal that provides safety services for the aircraft, so it is a 2-in-1 solution.”
And, while 2.6Mbps is not a broadband solution for a larger commercial aircraft, it can deliver many services otherwise unavailable today. Inmarsat sees SwiftJet as “creating a secure ‘office in the sky’ with enhanced capabilities for video calls, web browsing, email, texting, cloud-syncing and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams. Social media and video applications such as TikTok and YouTube.”
Partners delivering the upgrade technology
For its part, Inmarsat made upgrades in its ground infrastructure and network teleports to support the boosted speeds. The on-aircraft work will involve partners who deliver the terminals. Honeywell has its version of the upgraded terminal available for pre-order today, both for existing SBB and new customers. Delivery of the hardware and entry into service for the SwiftJet network is planned for early 2023.
Adam Sheppard, Honeywell Aerospace’s Director of Aircraft Connectivity, notes, “We have created a straightforward upgrade path for SwiftBroadband customers, giving them easy access to unprecedented internet speeds over L-band without having to change wiring or antenna hardware.”
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