Data and the connected aircraft

We live in a world that’s driven by data – and not just the ‘big’ data devoured by business. Individuals want data during almost every waking moment, too. How else to explain the stratospheric rise of the smartphone and mobile data use? 

The meteoric rise of mobile

Take a look at some statistics. High-speed 4G mobile data connections surpassed 1 billion in 2015 and 4G networks are now available in 151 countries around the world. Mobile data use has also grown 4,000-fold over the past 10 years, but that easy access to fast internet away from the home or office is more than just something that’s nice to have – it’s become pivotal to the global economy.

Now this obviously only applies to mobile data on the ground, but that demand doesn’t vanish the moment those data-hungry individuals step onto a plane. A 2015 Inmarsat survey, carried out with market research company GfK, found that 92% of airline passengers want to use the internet while flying, while the vast majority already chose their airlines based on its availability. Most important of all, they value a reliable connection above all else.

Smooth and seamless high-speed internet connectivity is something airlines will need to consider if they want to maintain customer loyalty and retention. But this isn’t something that needs solving just for today’s passenger experience. Inflight connectivity also needs to handle the much broader needs of the ‘complete connected aircraft’ of tomorrow.

More than just bandwidth

Next-generation inflight connectivity capable of meeting passenger demand is available now – and from a number of partners. Next-generation inflight connectivity that’s available reliably worldwide from a single partner, on the other hand, is available only from one – Inmarsat.

Dependable global mobile satellite communication is our core business and Inmarsat has been delivering it for more than 25 years for the aviation industry. We’re not just a bandwidth provider – we supply complete managed communications solutions across the entire value chain to leading commercial airlines and business jet operators. More than 11,500 aircraft depend on our services for every aspect of aircraft communication – passenger, operational and safety.

Inmarsat’s worldwide communication networks are key to our comprehensive offering. We own and maintain our own satellite constellations and work closely with leading connectivity experts on the ground. Fully integrated and redundant, Inmarsat’s networks deliver consistent communications to aircraft across every time zone – with an industry-leading 99.9% network availability.

Integrated networks, seamless global coverage

Downloading large email attachments and posting photos on Facebook, let alone more sophisticated activities, shouldn’t be limited to select routes. Fast internet access needs to be available everywhere and for everyone on board an aircraft.

That’s an experience airlines can provide today with Inmarsat GX Aviation. The service delivers true inflight broadband when and where it’s needed, to any flight path on the planet. And it’s the first service of its kind from a single operator.

In addition, passengers flying over the busy airspace of Europe will be able to use our revolutionary European Aviation Network. A partnership between Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, the European Aviation Network tightly integrates satellite coverage with ground-based 4G stations to put reliable high-speed inflight broadband across the densely populated skies of all 28 European Union member states.

These developments mean that airlines are now equipped to bring dramatic, yet cost effective, enhancements to the passenger experience – and to take advantage of the new revenue streams that accompany them. Think advanced entertainment with streaming music and video, real-time collaboration with remote colleagues, intelligent digital personal assistants that handle everything from ordering an inflight meal to hiring a car before landing – even internet services that have yet to be imagined. Inmarsat makes it all possible.

Enhancing safety and operational efficiency

Meeting passenger demand for inflight broadband is only one component of the ‘complete connected aircraft’. The flight deck also needs a similar digital overhaul to meet the demands of the pressing operational and safety demands of increasingly crowded airports and air space.

Inflight connectivity can’t be shared between cockpit and cabin. Services must be physically separated for safety and security, and cockpit communication must be protected and prioritised above all else. Inmarsat is uniquely placed to deliver this.

Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband–Safety provides a wholly separate digital communication service for aircraft from a distinct satellite network. Fast and secure, SwiftBroadband–Safety enables a wide range of new cockpit applications and its voice service meets the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs)

SwiftBroadband–Safety’s digital communication between air and ground remedies the limited range and poor voice quality of existing VHF/HF radio, while the fast internet access it supplies to the cockpit enables real-time updates between electronic flight bags and airline operations centres throughout the flight.

When deployed on new aircraft like the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787, SwiftBroadband–Safety can also relay performance data to maintenance crews on the ground long before landing. Faults can be diagnosed more quickly, replacement parts readied in advance and costly turnaround delays reduced.

Airlines’ choice for the future

The future of high-speed inflight connectivity is here and with Inmarsat, airlines can choose a connectivity partner with the expertise and technology to realise its full potential. A partner who can meet both passenger demand for inflight broadband and operational and safety demands for more capable digital communication.

Inmarsat is the most experienced mobile communications partner in the market. A partner with a commitment to innovation, investment and infrastructure necessary to meet passenger, operational and safety needs for the long-term. Aviation communication is a core business for Inmarsat, not a secondary service. There’s no better-connected partner for a better-connected aircraft experience.