Honeywell-Inmarsat JetConneX is delivering broadband Internet that rivals the speeds that passengers enjoy at home. A tail-mounted JetWave antenna on over 100 business jets provides the service, with Inmarsat, Ka-band Global Xpress satellite service and Honeywell, the hardware provider offering guaranteed six Mbps quality. Airline passengers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia were the first to experience global, high-speed Wi-Fi that utilized Inmarsat Global Xpress’ first satellite in 2014. Two more satellites provided coverage for the Americas, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
In the October 10 Daily Show by Aviation Week Network, Inmarsat’s Aviation VP Kurt Weidemeyer said that passengers have been amazed by the service. Viasat, Gogo Inc, Panasonic and Global Eagle Entertainment also offer satellite-based Wi-Fi on flights. Wi-Fi on U.S. domestic flights is commonplace, however, the air-to-ground technology (ATG) in use is too slow to stream videos.
The public is used to being connected in coffee shops, in public parks and nearly everywhere else, so passengers are beginning to expect high-speed Wi-Fi on business flights. Airlines can earn extra revenue by offering upgraded in-flight entertainment options. Flight crews benefit from high-speed Wi-Fi, which can be used to monitor weather patterns with real-time data, instead of the pilots having to call control towers for information since their information is already out-of-date once they take off. Pilots can contact the maintenance crews at their destination for faster turnaround times as well.
Airlines are charging by the flight, day or month for Internet access; JetBlue offers complimentary browsing, however, there is a charge for streaming. Connections are expensive because providing the service is expensive. Simply adding an antenna on the outside of the plane increases drag, which adds to the airline’s fuel costs. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to outfit one airplane with ATG or satellite Wi-Fi as well.