Emirates hails Inmarsat’s Arctic coverage for inflight broadband

The announcement of Inmarsat’s two new satellite payloads offering inflight connectivity for aircraft flying in higher elevations and across the Arctic has been embraced by world-leading airline Emirates.

Over the past couple of months, Inmarsat has announced an ambitious, fast-paced development plan for its Global Xpress (GX) network, which powers the award-winning GX Aviation and Jet ConneX inflight broadband solutions. Unsurprisingly, the news has been warmly embraced by the global airline and business aviation markets for introducing an unprecedented new era of aviation connectivity.

Emirates, a world-leading airline, was amongst the first to publically share its excitement about how the development plans will enhance the inflight broadband service it offers to passengers. “We are very pleased with this development, which will ensure Emirates continues to lead the industry in providing our customers a seamless inflight connectivity experience across geographies, on all of our flight routes,” commented Adel Al Redha, Emirates’ Executive Vice President and Chief Operations.

“Over the years, we have worked closely with Inmarsat and our supply partners to continually raise the bar on inflight connectivity, and we look forward to further enhancing that experience, taking advantage of new technologies and infrastructure,” he added.

Emirates’ passengers bound for the US will soon be able to enjoy Wi-Fi, mobile service connectivity and Live TV broadcast, even when flying 40,000 feet in higher elevations and across the Arctic.

Emirates has led the world with inflight connectivity, with every aircraft connected for Wi-Fi, voice and SMS services. However on its flights to the US, which often travel over the polar region, passengers can find themselves without connectivity for up to four hours. This is due to the fact that most satellites that connect aircraft are geostationary, located over the equator, and aircraft antennae cannot see the satellite when in the far north, due to the earth’s curvature.

Passenger using laptop on board aircraft

Emirates has expressed its delight that Inmarsat will soon solve this problem as part of its fast-paced development of the GX network, with the addition of two elliptical orbit satellites, thus providing coverage over the Arctic when launched in 2022. The payloads, GX10A & 10B, will be operated by Space Norway’s Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission (ABSM) team and seamlessly integrate into the GX network.

The new satellites will also provide Live TV broadcast on Emirates flights allowing customers to watch live news or sports over the polar region, Emirates stated in a press release. The airline’s Live TV is currently available on 175 aircraft including all Boeing 777 and select Airbus 380s.

Inmarsat Aviation President Philip Balaam shares Emirates’ excitement about the latest GX network enhancements. “Inmarsat has an extremely successful track record of working with Emirates to ensure their inflight connectivity requirements are met on a global basis, both in the cockpit and the cabin. We are delighted to continue that tradition with the rapid development of our Global Xpress (GX) satellite network,” he said. “Our development of the GX network is a great fit for Emirates and once again they have played an important role in our decision for these latest expansions.”

A digital innovator

Emirates Airlines is impressive for many reasons. It has one of the largest aircraft fleets in the world, has featured within the top 5 of the world’s best airlines in Skytrax’s World Airline Awards for the last six years and brings together cabin crew from over 150 countries around the world.

The airline is also renowned for its award-winning inflight entertainment system, ICE, which offers over 4,000 channels of entertainment, including over 1,000 movies from around the world. In fact, ICE has won the Skytrax World’s Best Inflight Entertainment award for 14 years in a row now.

The airline is always innovating when it comes to inflight connectivity and entertainment. Back in 1992, Emirates was the first airline to install TV screens in every seat on every aircraft in its fleet. In 2008, it was the first airline to use Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband system to enable passengers to use the mobile data link on their personal devices. Then, in 2017, Thales announced that Emirates intends to install Inmarsat’s GX Aviation inflight broadband service on its Boeing 777X aircraft fleet.

Today, wi-fi connectivity is available on all Emirates aircraft. Customers in all cabin classes receive 20MB of free Wi-Fi data or unlimited use of messaging apps for two hours allowing them to log on and stay in touch with friends, family or colleagues. Emirates Skywards members enjoy special benefits depending on their membership tier and class of travel, including free Wi-Fi when travelling in First Class or Business Class. It’s so popular that over 1 million Wi-Fi connections are made onboard the airline’s flights in an average month.