Saudi Arabia’s aviation industry to benefit from Inmarsat’s new spectrum licence

Exciting new development will help enable the Kingdom’s airline and business aviation sectors to upgrade their inflight connectivity

Saudi Arabia’s aviation industry has continued to flourish in recent years. According to the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), the Kingdom’s airports handled more than 100 million passengers in 2019 alone, a record number that marks an impressive jump of approximately 130% over the past ten years.

The future looks incredibly bright too, with passenger volumes expected to double once again by the end of 2030, reaching almost 200 million. A key factor in this ambitious outlook is Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’, which aims to transform the Kingdom into a regional and international superhub for tourism, transportation and logistics.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is seeking to strengthen its national economy and promote the aviation industry as an important economic pillar for the country,” GACA explained in a statement issued after the Global Aviation Summit in Riyadh last year. “The Kingdom is one of the most emerging markets in world and there are strong indications of continued growth for years to come.”

A key focus of the Global Aviation Summit was innovation in aviation technology and the role that companies will play in ensuring that world-class standards are met by the industry. Inmarsat, as the world's leading provider of aviation connectivity solutions, is amongst those companies that have stepped up.

Inmarsat has just been issued a spectrum licence that allows it operate its advanced Global Xpress (GX) satellite network in Saudi Arabia. The licence covers its award-winning GX Aviation and Jet ConneX inflight broadband services for the airline and business aviation markets, which allow passengers to seamlessly browse the internet, stream video and music, watch live television, check and update social media, and more during flights. GX Aviation has been selected by leading airlines across the world, such as Emirates, Gulf Air and Kuwait Airways in the Middle East.

In addition to the spectrum licence, a collaboration with fixed and mobile satellite telecommunications distributor Sada Al Ammah marks Inmarsat’s first distribution partner based in Saudi Arabia. Together with Global Beam Telecom in the region, the agreement will facilitate provision of Inmarsat’s L-band services, which also powers onboard connectivity solutions for airline and business aviation passengers, in addition to world-class aviation operations and safety services.

“This spectrum licence and partner agreement will strengthen our ability to support inflight connectivity aspirations in Saudi Arabia and the wider region, alongside our existing world-class network of value added resellers, including Collins Aerospace, Honeywell, Panasonic Avionics, Satcom Direct, SITA FOR THE AIRCRAFT and Thales,” explains Neale Faulkner, Inmarsat Aviation’s Regional Vice President.

The signing ceremony

“We look forward to working with aviation customers in Saudi Arabia and upgrading them to the world’s best connectivity solutions for both the aircraft cabin and cockpit.”

Aviation customers in Saudi Arabia will also benefit from the continued development of Inmarsat’s satellite networks. The company’s ambitious and fully-funded roadmap commenced with the launch of a fifth GX satellite last November, which joined the existing four GX satellites in orbit. GX5 is particular important to Saudi Arabia as it delivers more capacity into the Middle East and Europe than the entire existing GX satellite fleet combined.

“GX5 represents a significant advance in the capabilities of our network and will ensure that Inmarsat’s aviation customers remain at the cutting-edge of passenger connectivity technologies as their needs evolve,” states Philip Balaam, President of Inmarsat Aviation.

In the years to come, seven more new generation satellites will be sent into orbit, ensuring that Inmarsat stays ahead of passenger demand and provides its customers in Saudi Arabia and across the world with critical commercial advantages.

“We have spent years planning and investing in our technology roadmap to ensure that we can confidently continue to meet growing demand for connectivity for decades to come,” adds Balaam. “Our future satellite launches will grow our world-leading services to meet rapidly-expanding demand, connecting passengers around the world to reach their full potential.”