• Global Xpress will serve as the foundation of an integrated global network that can be shaped to fit any airline route system and built upon to meet future demand

Hamburg, Germany | April 5, 2016– Inmarsat, the world’s leading provider of global mobile satellite communications, has outlined its long-term aviation broadband roadmap to ensure that rising demand for fast, reliable and global passenger in-flight connectivity is met for the next five years and beyond.

The launch of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) Aviation solution this year creates the world’s first high-speed passenger in-flight connectivity solution with seamless, end-to-end global coverage, delivered through a single operator. Engineered to meet the needs of complex and evolving airline route systems, initial airline customers including Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Jazeera Airways.

The GX network, which entered commercial service in December 2015 and currently includes three powerful Ka-band satellites, will provide the international bandwidth capacity needed to meet existing and near-term demand from airlines. As part of the aviation broadband roadmap, it also provides a global coverage underlay that will be built upon to meet future demand.

Inmarsat has already committed to a fourth GX satellite, which is completing construction and testing by Boeing and will provide additional network capacity. It has also awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract to build the first two satellites for its sixth-generation fleet, the first of which is scheduled for delivery by 2020. Uniquely for Inmarsat, the new fleet will feature a dual-payload, with each satellite supporting both Ka-band and L-band services. Based on current services and demand, the Ka-band co-payload will augment the capacity of the GX network over busy air routes and regions, while the L-band capacity supports a new generation of aviation safety services.

Another vital component in the roadmap is Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network (EAN), which will be the first aviation passenger connectivity solution across European airspace to integrate an advanced satellite network and LTE-based ground network; the latter will be operated by Deutsche Telekom. Aircraft will switch automatically between satellite and terrestrial connectivity using an onboard network communicator for optimal service delivery. The first commercial EAN trials are expected in mid-2017.

Leo Mondale, President of Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Inmarsat’s focus on global mobility is unique in the industry and our aviation broadband roadmap will ensure we continue to grow ahead of demand, with the ability to efficiently move capacity where it’s needed, when it’s needed. As a result, our airline customers will benefit from partnering with a highly-focused connectivity provider that is continuously investing to meet the aviation industry’s long-term needs for superior performance and economics.

“This is extremely important, as airlines operate complex and constantly evolving route networks, each with their own unique requirements, and they need to look beyond a short-term answer to in-flight broadband. Inmarsat’s commitment to building on its GX payloads, in addition to the European Aviation Network, underlines the fact that we have the infrastructure, focus and investment power to deliver the ultimate aviation connectivity – now and in the future.”

Airlines will connect to GX Aviation using exclusive new JetWave terminals being produced by Inmarsat partner Honeywell Aerospace. Over 300 passenger aircraft have already committed to installing the system, with more to come. Certification for JetWave is currently underway for 26 different aircraft models across commercial, business aviation and government end markets, with approvals received for the Boeing 757 and Bombardier 5000 and 6000 aircraft in recent months.

Final ground and flight testing is now underway and initial results have successfully validated GX Aviation’s ability to deliver high-speed broadband connectivity to support video streaming and live radio, online conference video calls, multiple file downloads and more over land and water.

Inmarsat is also collaborating with Honeywell Aerospace and Kymeta, a company that develops innovative flat-panel antennas for satellite communications, to produce a new, higher-speed Ka-band wireless antenna. The aviation antenna, which is exclusive to Inmarsat, will have unique capabilities that will bring another step change in faster connectivity and higher quality broadband service to aircraft. In addition, its smaller and lighter flat-panel design will reduce weight and drag on the aircraft, in turn reducing fuel and maintenance costs.

“Our end-to-end solution, including the satellite and ground network, hardware and infrastructure, have been specifically engineered with mobility in mind. And as a single network operator, we can commit to a reliable global service with a uniform high quality of service,” added Mondale.

Last week, IFExpress got a very interesting letter from Mr. Jo Kremsreiter, President of AirSatOne concerning a new communication/connectivity development (service) that he is rolling out for Business Jets, and it rides on Inmarsat’s L-Band, SwiftBroadband. In a nutshell, the voice calling feature that he is debuting, relies on a cellphone app that uses the standard Wi-Fi signal from a un-modified aircraft Wi-Fi router. He wrote: “…AirSatOne is has certified an app that allows business jet passengers use their smart phone on the aircraft to make and receive calls – and more. What is unique about what we have done allows the biz jet passengers to use a commercially available app on the aircraft which saves them quite a bit of money plus no (special hardware) install required since it runs in the cloud.” This, plus the news release caught our attention so we decided to a bit dig a bit deeper as we usually do. Before we get started here are a couple facts that might help you catch the “spin” on this system. Consider this a setup to deliver a better story:

  1. Inmarsat Satcom voice calls on biz jet aircraft that usually entail aircraft handsets or special solutions to deliver passenger voice.
  2. Unfortunately, in the old process, the only way to contact a passenger or flight crew member was to call the aircraft through the Satcom international number or a specially assigned 10 digit number – the aircraft handsets will then ring. With this method a call is not placed to an individual who may or may not be on the aircraft. But the AirSatOne solution allows a caller to dial the individual’s phone number, their same number used all the time, even on the ground, and reach them on their smart phone while they are on the aircraft. The technology that allows this is the RingCentral app loaded on the smart phone.
  3. While the “cloud” is still on the ground, dialing a number for a phone that is airborne will be directed to the aircraft, by it… regardless from where, or on what, one is calling.
  4. With AirSatOne’s app solution, the user still pays the Inmarsat data fees, but not the requirement to install expensive hardware, and the installation costs and downtime associated with special hardware are gone as well. All three are replaced with a $24.99 fee per month, per app loaded phone. Inflight users get voice, data, and text messaging over their device.
  5. We note that the RingCentral app on a phone will work with any Wi-Fi: airborne or on the ground.

The System
To get a better understanding of the total system, checkout this link for the diagram of the system layout. There are three things that you should note: the aircraft setup, the ASO FlightStream SA (System Administration) block, and the “Cloud”.

  • Aircraft – A standard aircraft Wi-Fi router is installed on the biz jet regular 802.11 Wi-Fi transmissions. The cellphone also has the RingCentral VoIP app installed… that’s it!
  • ASO FlightStream SA – Deployed world wide at, or near, the Inmarsat hubs (and other locations). ASO’s servers are located to deliver better service – in other words, FlightStream SA delivers data management by providing firewall, compression, filtering and consumption notifications via email, and is deployed globally at, or near, Inmarsat hubs to help speed.
  • The ‘Cloud’ – The established VoIP ‘Cloud’ today handles signal directivity and locates and directs based on existing telephone numbers and existing devices. Today’s Cloud is smart and that is what helps to allow existing device usage – either devices to the plane, or from the plane via SwiftBroadband.

The Service

We asked Mr. Kremsreiter to trace a call flow, so we asked for a ‘flow’ description, and Jo told IFExpress: The VoIP PBX system running in the cloud handles call routing and keeps the call alive when handing off between cellular and Wi-Fi or when handing off, for example, from your iPhone to your home phone or transferring the cell call to your office desktop phone. The system knows the iPhone (or Android device) is on the aircraft because the smart phone will ‘check in’ through the aircrafts Wi-Fi that eventually gets to the cloud VoIP PBX via FlightStream SA and the Internet. In other words, when John CEO gets on the aircraft it will connect to the Wi-Fi in the aircraft. The Wi-Fi in the aircraft goes to the Inmarsat satellite, down to the ground, through our FlightStream SA and out to the internet to the cloud VoIP PBX saying “I am here”. When we asked about the ‘Cloud’ and it’s importance, Jo noted: “The VoIP PBX system running in the cloud handles call routing and keeps the call alive when handing off between cellular and Wi-Fi or when handing off, for example, from your iPhone to your home phone or transferring the cell call to your office desktop phone. The system knows the iPhone is on the aircraft because the iPhone will ‘check in’ through the aircrafts Wi-Fi which eventually gets to the cloud VoIP PBX via FlightStream SA and the Internet.”

Satcom voice calling is offered today by at least three vendors. The service providers do this but you need specialized hardware on the aircraft. Noted Mr. Kremsreiter. “For example the SDR by Satcom Direct which costs around $35,000 + install + downtime for the install = $70 to $75K and these numbers can be found in the following article. “Note in the article: “All that is required to access the “Global VT” service is a Satcom Direct Router (SDR) in the aircraft, with the latest software update, and a smart phone”. The author added that the unit, which costs around $35,000, and the article goes on to mention that the cost of putting another system that is basically a picocell (or GSM access point) in the aircraft. This picocell system costs around $250K in a business jet and up to $1M in a BBJ!”

Importantly, AirSatOne’s FlightStream SA reduces satellite signal load and frees up bandwidth for VoIP calls. How? Noted Jo: “It does so by blocking advertisements, it provides text and image compression, and finally, it can block unwanted downloads and limit file sizes. Bandwidth comes at a premium for aircraft so being able to lighten the load allows VoIP to work better on the aircraft. It is also critical for a service like this to operate efficiently, our competitors have similar offerings that do less and are located at a single location. Our FlightStream SA is deployed globally at or near Inmarsat hubs which means more efficient handling and in turn less latency, fewer hops and a shorter distance to travel.”
More info here
Video Here

Noted Jo: “It is important because business jet passengers and flight crews want to use the same smartphone they use every day to send and receive phone calls on the ground, using their own land based phone number – not a special number for only the aircraft. They want their phone to ring when they get that important call – no matter where they are including at 35,000 ft flying over the N Atlantic on their own phone number!”

The Network

First, you should probably watch this YouTube video to get an idea how the folks at ASO interface with the Inmarsat Swift Broadband Network and realize they have located servers at the Inmarsat hubs. Further, there are additional hubs located to provide even better connectivity. Noted Mr. Kremsreiter: “Unlike our competition we offer choices. You can use the same generic network offered by our competition or we can connect your aircraft to a more robust network designed by Astrium, the same company that built the SwiftBroadband satellites. This backbone allows us to connect your aircraft through an advanced global network backed by 24/7 ‘follow the sun’ support – and we offer this for the same price. While this expensive technology may cut into our margins, we feel the benefit to our customers outweighs the cost.”

Finally, Mr. Kremsreiter told IFExpress, “Bottom line is with our competitor’s solution, for $70 – $75,000 you can solve a problem on one aircraft and you are not solving a problem with cell coverage on the ground. That price is a solution for one aircraft, for a fleet multiply that number by the number of aircraft. With the RingCentral app you can solve the problem on the aircraft (or fleet), have phone coverage on the ground when cell service is weak or non-existent, or overseas and you also get to add a lot of other cool features like integration with CRM software, conference calling, swapping calls from iPhone to home phone to desktop – plus it allows collaboration for projects and file sharing and also text messaging. Our solution starts at $24.99 per month, per phone. We did the testing and certification with the $24.99 a month application so it does not require a more expensive plan.”

In conclusion, VoIP phone calls over regular Wi-Fi hardware on biz jet aircraft have a new solution and it only requires a RingCentral app. Today on the ground, this is pretty much how we use VoIP with our regular Wi-Fi/cellphone calling and it was just a matter of time before someone figured out that this solution really benefitted the biz jet traveler. One note, we understand this app will work with almost any airplane Wi-Fi. Additionaly, notes Jo, “Users should use our FlightStream SA to lighten the load and have more available bandwidth – We did not test it without FlightStream SA and therefore it was not certified by us for use without it, however, any Wi-Fi will work. Perhaps, this solution is bigger than we think. Stay Tuned!

For more information on AirSatOne contact Jo Kremsreiter


We owe a mea culpa to BOSE! Last week’s reference to their new A20 Aviaiton Headsets had the incorrect hyperlink attached. Here is the correct one.

Melbourne, Florida | March 13, 2014–

Thales today signed a binding agreement to acquire LiveTV, JetBlue’s fully-owned subsidiary for a total of US$400m dollars. The sale which is subject to regulatory and other approvals is expected to be completed in mid-2014.

Founded in 1998 in Melbourne, Florida (United States of America) LiveTV provides In-Flight Entertainment solutions for Seat Back, Regional Live Television, Wireless Video and Global Live television, and Connectivity solutions covering Ka-Band Broadband, Multi Band Broadband(Ku, Ka and L-Band), LiveAero and Regional Satellite Radio. With estimated revenues for 2014 projected at over US$150m, it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways and today employs around 450 people.

LiveTV has been a pioneer in the field of TV and more recently high speed airline and passenger Internet and communications services. LiveTV has equipped more than 700 aircraft worldwide with a range of extremely competitive products.

“LiveTV is a great strategic fit for Thales, commented Jean-Bernard Lévy, Chairman and CEO Thales. It will improve our positioning in the high growth business of In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity. Our aim is to offer the highest performance, and most competitive and flexible connectivity solution to airlines regardless of their fleet-size, aircraft type or route structure.”

“Passengers increasingly expect broadband internet services at home, at work and on the move. Airlines want to enable their passengers to have access to this connected environment within the aircraft, allowing them to interact with both social media and professional networks while they travel. Thales will provide solutions that cater to this need” he continued.