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BA to Help Inmarsat UK Deploy EU-Wide In-Flight Passenger Broadband

Thursday, Jun 5th, 2014 (12:48 pm) - Score 522

England-based Inmarsat, a global Satellite communications provider, has announced that they’re in “advanced discussions” with British Airways in the hope that the airline will become the first to adopt their new in-flight passenger broadband service, which is due to be rolled out across the 28 Member States of Europe by 2016.

The new service, which is based off an integrated satellite/air-to-ground network that operates over 30MHz of S-band (microwave) spectrum, will require Inmarsat to both build new ground-based 4G stations across the EU and launch a new spacecraft called Europasat at the end of 2016. Unfortunately somebody clearly hasn’t told Inmarsat that a separate UK satellite ISP is already using that name (here), which could create some confusion.

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In any case the new capabilities afforded by Europasat should complement Inmarsat’s existing Global Xpress aviation services, thus extending their coverage for aviation passengers “seamlessly across the rest of the globe” and placing the operator in a “leadership position in the global in-flight passenger connectivity market“.

Rupert Pearce, CEO of Inmarsat, said:

North America has seen rapid take-up of in-flight passenger connectivity services, with installation and usage both growing very quickly. The success of the Gogo air-to-ground network has already triggered the building of a second competing network by AT&T, one of the world’s largest telecommunications operators. Independent research predicts that in-flight connectivity services will be a multi-billion dollar revenue sector by 2020.

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. 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.”

Aside from airlines, Inmarsat also expects Europasat to support next generation emergency network services for public protection and disaster relief. Meanwhile British Airways would initially deploy the service across its UK domestic routes, although it’s too early to talk about how much the service will cost in-flight customers.

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 such that each partner will retain exclusive rights to a separate payload. 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 £120 million (the majority of this cost will be incurred over a 3-year period).

In addition, the total cost to Inmarsat of the further ground network development programme and service deployment is estimated at up to £150 million (over a 6 year period). Meanwhile the operator has already commenced the licencing process with EU Member States in order to allow timely deployment of the new aviation services.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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