A new benchmark in global aviation connectivity

How the GX Aviation inflight Wi-Fi service is future-proofing the growing demands – and revenue requirements – of some of the world’s best airlines

Since entering commercial service in 2016, GX Aviation has quickly been adopted by many of the world’s most respected airlines, who are now reaping the benefits of reliable, seamless, global connectivity. And in the years ahead, yet more innovations are set to enhance the agility and flexibility of the GX Aviation network, ensuring customer needs continue to be met as demand increases.

GX Aviation has become the reference service for the industry. Powered by Inmarsat’s Global Xpress network, it’s the first and only worldwide high-speed connectivity network. The GX Aviation vision is founded on four core principles: the benefits of operation in the Ka-band; seamless global coverage; layered capacity; and increasingly efficient targeting of capacity.

Inmarsat has unparalleled expertise in aviation connectivity, and for more than a quarter of a century has been trusted by the world’s leading airlines to deliver secure, global services, which can currently be found on more than 12,000 aircraft. Its fully-funded roadmap for the future will ensure that Inmarsat’s technology continues to evolve to meet the growing and increasingly complex needs of its customers.

Driving customer loyalty

From low-cost carriers such as Norwegian and AirAsia to brands such as Qatar Airways and Air New Zealand, leading global airlines are choosing GX Aviation. Wherever they fly, they can take advantage of GX Aviation’s unique global coverage, with none of the drop-outs or patchiness that are typical of other services. For passengers, that means a seamless messaging, browsing and streaming experience equivalent to what they would experience on the ground.

Qatar Aircraft

At Qatar Airways, which sees meeting passenger demand for connectivity as a key part of its premium passenger experience, customer reaction has been extremely positive, according to Babar Rahman, the airline’s Senior Manager, Inflight Entertainment/Connectivity, Corporate Sponsorships, CSR & Special Projects. He describes an “immense outpouring of positive feedback regarding the speed of connectivity, the likes of which passengers are generally used to only on the ground.”

High-quality onboard Wi-Fi is increasingly becoming an expectation for today’s air travellers, and it can be a significant driver of customer loyalty. According to Inmarsat’s Inflight Connectivity Survey 2017, more than 70% of those who have experienced inflight connectivity believe it is a necessity rather than a luxury. And in the 2018 survey, two thirds of passengers said they are more likely to rebook with an airline if inflight Wi-Fi is available. The proportion rises to 83% among business travellers.

Increasing ancillary revenue

As well as boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty, GX Aviation also offers airlines a platform for increased ancillary revenue generation. Connectivity will create substantial sums in increased incremental value over the coming years, according to Sky High Economics, a study by the London School of Economics (LSE) into the socio-economic impact of the inflight broadband revolution. The report’s first chapter, Quantifying the Commercial Opportunities of Passenger Connectivity for the Global Airline Industry, predicts that inflight connectivity could add up to $30bn a year in revenue across the airline industry by 2035. Around half of the additional revenue will come from a combination of sponsored content and passengers paying to access the service. Inflight shopping, targeted advertising and premium entertainment content will deliver another substantial tranche.

“Connectivity unlocks new digital frontiers for ancillaries,” says Edward Rowley, Manager of Ancillary Services Category Management at Lufthansa Group, an early adopter of GX Aviation. And this is particularly true in the case of low-cost carriers, such as AirAsia, another GX Aviation customer.

“For some time, airlines have been depending on baggage, food and seat selection on the low-cost carriers to bring in some ancillary revenue,” says Lalitha Sivanaser, CEO of AirAsia’s inflight entertainment and connectivity platform, ROKKI. “Everything that isn’t a seat to a destination is ancillary for us. Therefore ancillary revenue is very, very important. It’s one of the key drivers for the airline. And now we can take ancillary revenues beyond those traditional mediums. Advertising, partnerships, things that touch the online space.”

The rich data that airlines can gather also allows them to offer better and more relevant personalised offers to passengers. And this is data that passengers have shown themselves to be comfortable with sharing, according to Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr.

“Aviation is all about trust,” he says. “They [passengers] trust us with their lives when they travel, and that trust transfers to data sharing. And while we’re aware of the value of the data, this is not about making some quick money. We want to use that data to enhance their individual experiences.”

Leading technology

From the very beginning, GX Aviation has been designed to anticipate and meet ever-growing customer demand for ubiquitous connectivity. It’s powered by Global Xpress, the world’s only global Ka-band satellite network, which is owned and operated by Inmarsat. The less congested Ka band offers plenty of capacity to draw from, so as demand rises, Inmarsat’s customers are assured of all the bandwidth they need.

The first three Global Xpress advanced spot-beam satellites cover the world with a seamless layer of high capacity coverage, and in 2018, a fourth GX satellite was launched to increase capacity over Europe and the Middle East, as well as providing extra resilience and redundancy for the network as a whole. Over the coming years, a series of highly efficient, regional satellites will be added to the network, followed by the most powerful, flexible mobile communication satellites ever created, powering enhanced services for the 5G era.

Passenger using Laptop on board an aircraft

Airlines’ demand for capacity is fluid, driven by the ebb and flow of passenger traffic, and demand can escalate at peak times over hot spots, causing sudden spikes in requirement. Traditional satellite solutions can’t always respond to this fluidity, meaning they struggle to deliver the capacity when and where it’s needed most. GX’s unique steerable beam technology means additional capacity can be targeted and delivered over critical flight routes and congested airport hubs.

In the future, as demand becomes more complex, the GX network will evolve, to combine dynamic, targeted coverage and flexible capacity with true scalability to serve every customer, everywhere, and at any time. That means the capability to generate thousands of simultaneous, independent beams of differing sizes, bandwidth and power, which can be reconfigured and repositioned with pinpoint precision in real time.

Inmarsat has partnered with Honeywell Aerospace for its connectivity equipment needs. The equipment is lightweight – to minimise fuel burn – and robust, which maximises time between maintenance. And just like the Global Xpress network, Honeywell’s antenna and connectivity hardware are continually being optimised, to ensure airlines can face the future with confidence.

A world-beating team

As well as Honeywell Aerospace, Inmarsat’s team of partners includes major names such as Panasonic Avionics, Collins Aerospace, Thales and SITAONAIR. These leading companies will underpin the successful development, installation and integration of GX Aviation going forward. Inmarsat also works closely with Boeing and Airbus to make GX available as linefit or retrofit on every major airframe.

Many airlines around the world are already enjoying the benefits of GX Aviation. From enhanced passenger satisfaction to increased ancillary revenue, the inflight connectivity solution delivers a measurable competitive advantage. And Inmarsat’s commitment to innovation will continue, based on a proven network strategy. The future will bring agile, efficient, precision-engineered solutions that anticipate and fulfil customer needs, helping them make the very most of the connectivity revolution in the skies.

Passenger using mobile on board aircraft