Inmarsat is to deploy a unique integrated telecommunications network delivering aviation passenger connectivity across the EU.
The company has placed an order for a new S-band satellite, called Europasat, and expects to complement this satellite with a fully integrated air-to-ground network across the European Union.
Inmarsat’s new aviation network will deliver high-speed broadband services to commercial and business aviation passengers across the continent.
These capabilities will be offered alongside Inmarsat’s Global Xpress aviation services, extending Inmarsat’s service coverage for European aviation passengers seamlessly across the rest of the globe.
This will place Inmarsat in a leadership position in the in-flight passenger connectivity market, which is already both substantial and growing rapidly in North America and which offers exceptional growth potential globally.
“We believe that the same in-flight connectivity opportunity exists in Europe and that, with the support of EU telecoms regulators, Inmarsat can rapidly bring to market unique, high speed aviation passenger connectivity services to meet this market demand on an EU-wide basis,” said Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce.
“A number of European airlines are aligned with this vision and we are absolutely delighted to announce advanced discussions with British Airways to be a launch customer on our new aviation network.”
Kate Thornton, Head of Product and Service at British Airways , commented: “British Airways is in discussions with Inmarsat about leading Europe in a new era of broadband in the air. Starting with UK domestic routes Inmarsat intends to deploy Europe’s first ground-based 4G broadband network giving our customers the internet access they expect on the ground while in the air.”
To reduce initial programme costs, Inmarsat and Hellas-Sat, a non-competing European satellite operator, have contracted with Thales Alenia Space for the construction of a satellite on a shared basis, with each partner retaining exclusive rights to a separate payload.
Inmarsat’s S-band payload is expected to be delivered for launch on Europasat at the end of 2016.
As a result of the shared payload agreement, Inmarsat’s costs for the manufacture, launch, insurance and operations of Europasat are expected to be approximately US$200-250 million, or half of what it would have cost to deploy an S-band satellite on a stand-alone basis.
The aviation network deployment will be enabled by Inmarsat’s existing authorisation to operate integrated satellite/terrestrial communications services in 30MHz of S-band frequencies across the 28 Member States of the EU.
Inmarsat has already commenced the licensing process with EU Member States in order to allow timely deployment of the new aviation services.
Inmarsat has received strong support for its licence applications from many EU telecoms regulators and remains confident that, on the back of its substantial financial commitment, a consistent EU regulatory foundation can quickly be completed to support the deployment of these services for the benefit of EU businesses and consumers.
Further investment in the development and construction of the complementary ground component network across the EU, fully integrated with the Europasat satellite, will follow the progression of national level licence approvals and the signing of substantive customer commitments.
The total cost to Inmarsat of the further ground network development programme and service deployment is estimated at US$200-250 million over the next six years.
In addition to aviation services, Inmarsat expects Europasat to support next-generation emergency network services for public protection and disaster relief.
The Rt. Hon. David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “I am delighted that UK-based Inmarsat is leading the creation of a network to provide airline passengers with in-flight WiFi.
“Today’s announcement is an important investment in new infrastructure that will promote productivity and growth in the UK and across Europe.
“I welcome the fact that this service has been enabled by the EU’s approach to harmonising the necessary spectrum across EU member states. This approach enables companies to build business cases that can deliver pan-European benefits.”