Inmarsat making headway on GX Ka-band inflight broadband service

Inmarsat's Global Xpress (GX) program to provide global inflight connectivity via a network of Ka-band satellites is proceeding on track, with the 50 Mbps GX service slated to arrive in 2015.

Inmarsat partner Honeywell is developing GX terminals and antenna sub-systems for commercial and business aircraft and has already completed critical design review of the hardware. The GX service is expected to support up to 50 Mbps on the downlink and up to 5 Mbps on the uplink.

Source: Inmarsat

"All engineering units now are operating in the lab. We're starting some of the key integration activities, and getting test capabilities in place in about three different Honeywell sites so we're very happy with where we're sitting right now," said Honeywell director marketing and product management John Broughton, who was quoted by RunwayGirlNetwork.

Honeywell will actually begin installing the equipment on its own aircraft for flight testing activities late this year, said Broughton. Boeing and Honeywell have said they will initiate necessary activities to support GX Ka-band equipment installation aboard new aircraft in 2015.

In early December, Inmarsat-5 F1 (I-5 F1) became the first of three I-5 satellites to launch as part of the GX network. The satellite, constructed by Boeing, was launched aboard a Proton Breeze-M rocket from Kazakhstan. The remaining satellites are expected to launch this year during the second and third quarters.

GX is part of a $1.6 billion program commitment by Inmarsat and represents the first time a commercial operator has utilized Ka-band radio frequencies to deliver a global satellite service.

Inflight Wi-Fi and infotainment provider Gogo has already signed up to become a value-added reseller of GX in the commercial air transport market. Gogo has said GX will enable it to offer improved capacity, global coverage and significant cost advantages to its commercial airline customers.

Meanwhile, satellite antenna startup Kymeta, which includes Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Chairman Bill Gates as a major investor, expects to have prototype units of its Ka-band antennas ready for field trials in 2014, with initial availability of commercial products arriving early 2015.

According to Runway Girl Network, final deliverables to Inmarsat from Kymeta are due in January 2015, at which time the companies will discuss whether to enter a more formal arrangement. Kymeta's antennas would replace mechanically steered antennas.

Honeywell has not committed to Kymeta's antenna solution. "It's a technology that we continue to watch really closely from a number of companies, Kymeta being the main one. Phased array in terms of the mechanical impact on the airframe will be very attractive," said Broughton.

Kymeta announced in mid-December that it had successfully demonstrated use of its metamaterials-based flat-panel antenna for bi-directional high-speed Internet connectivity with a Ka broadband satellite. The demo was the first time a metamaterials-based antenna had established an Internet connection over a satellite link.

For more:
- see this Runway Girl Network article

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