Jet ConneX installations climb as passengers won’t fly without Wi-Fi

Inmarsat recently celebrated 1,000 installations of its next-generation inflight broadband solutions (GX Aviation, European Aviation Network and Jet ConneX). With almost 500 installs alone coming from Jet ConneX, Inmarsat’s high-speed broadband service for business aviation, at that time it’s clear the sector shows no sign of slowing down.

Business aviation continues its upward trajectory. The cautious optimism that has permeated the sector over the last two years following the extended recovery period after the 2008 financial crisis is still largely intact.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) latest monthly Business Jet Report (April 2019) overall operations for 2018 were at their highest since 2007’s pre-crash high. Looking back on the previous 12 months, the business aviation market research, strategy and forecasting company, JetNet iQ, said: “Industry book-to-bill performance was the strongest in 10 years, with most OEMs posting net new orders that matched or even somewhat exceeded factory shipments.”

That said, this optimism is tempered with some caution. Speaking at March 2019’s NBAA Business Aircraft Finance, Registration, and Legal Conference, JetNet iQ managing director Rolland Vincent said that although he expected new business jet deliveries to rise in 2019, this would be offset by “sluggish” sales as the world’s economic uncertainty takes hold.

Business Jet at sunset

The only way is up

However, within the burgeoning sector of business aviation inflight connectivity, (IFC) the message appears to be ‘the only way is up’. Whether it’s flying for business or pleasure, CEOs demand to be connected.

Speaking to Chief Executive magazine last year, the senior director of connectivity support at avionics specialist, Honeywell Aerospace, Curt Gray said: “They want to walk on [the aircraft] and have a seamless transition, continue their phone call, check email and have video running in the background wherever they are in the world.”

It’s a message backed up by Stephane Aligara, business development manager at ARINCDirect Cabin Services (now part of Collins Aerospace) who told Corporate Jet Investor that many passengers won’t fly without Wi-Fi.

He said: “Passengers will not fly without connectivity, because they expect to be connected, for entertainment or for work. That connectivity that they have at home, they expect to have it in the air.”

The rise and rise of Jet ConneX

This transition from IFC being a nice-to-have for business leaders to a must-have underpins the rapid rise of Inmarsat’s business aviation connectivity service, Jet ConneX. Just over two years since it went into commercial service, the take-up has been incredible. This includes all the major players in this sector choosing Jet ConneX as their preferred line-fit option, including Gulfstream. Bombardier, Dassault and Embraer.

Unsurprisingly, Inmarsat’s new Senior Vice President of Channel, Kai Tang, is pleased with the performance of this global, high-speed solution. “We pretty much have all the STCs we need and that's been a great response to Jet ConneX”

Speaking ahead of 2019’s EBACE in Geneva he says: “It's so pleasing to see how far we've come and how quickly we've arrived on the scene with Jet ConneX. Right now we are at five hundred aircraft [installations] and continuing our meteoric rise.”

He continues: “We pretty much have all the STCs we need and that's been very much a great response to Jet ConneX. All four of the major OEMs have come on board very quickly. We're working very closely with them as Inmarsat, but also this comes through a lot of the hard work from our partners working very closely with those OEMs as well.”

Built from the ground up

According to Tang, the seamless and reliable service provided by Jet ConneX is not only perfect for business aviation, it’s a testament to Inmarsat’s 40 years of building global mobile satellite services. It operates over Global Xpress, the first worldwide Ka-band network from a single operator, which provides seamless coverage – no matter how busy the airspace.

“It was built from the ground up for global mobility,” he explains. “It is built on the Global Xpress platform designed for aviation, not redesigned from a fixed satellite service that was intended for antennas on top of houses or buildings, but something that was designed by somebody who, like Inmarsat, really understands how mobile aviation works.”

And there is no let-up in momentum. Tang believes that there is still more to come from Jet ConneX, saying: “We think that there is so much more to do. There's so much flexibility and capability that Inmarsat brings with Global Xpress, both with its current constellation, its current service, but also with what we're going to be doing next. Which everyone is going to have to stay tuned for.”

Building and strengthening relationships

Tang puts a tremendous amount of Inmarsat’s on-going success to its partner relationships with Satcom Direct, Honeywell and Collins Aerospace – the ‘best of the best’ in the market today. Last year, it not only strengthened, but also widened, these crucial partnerships. Tang says that the future should hold more of the same as Inmarsat looks to work with partners on offerings that are new and exciting to the business aviation world.

“Our partners know best what their customers want,” he explains. “And one of the great things about Jet ConneX is that we've only just started to really open up and enable the full flexibility of Global Xpress. We're really excited to enable that capability with partners to explore completely new offerings.”

These relationships, Tang says, help all parties understand the broader business aviation market and drive a technology roadmap that ultimately paints a bright future for Global Xpress and Jet ConneX.

“We see the power when you have an ecosystem made up of the best in breed partners in the world,” Tang concludes. “They know the customers, they know the market, and in many cases they are the best at providing that service to the customer. And so, we prefer to choose to service our customers, the business aviation market, through our ecosystem of partners.”

So if the present day reality of business aviation looks interesting, the future can only be described as exciting. You’re advised to watch this space.