UK-based satellite service operator Inmarsat plc is planning to deploy a combined satellite and air-to-ground network that’ll provide aircraft passengers with mobile broadband connectivity. It’s ordered a new S-band satellite, which will be called Europasat, to work in conjunction with ground-based services.
Europasat is expected to be ready for launch at the end of 2016. The satellite will be used by Inmarsat and another satellite operator, which means the two companies will each pay around half of a stand-alone launch cost. Ground-based services will be rolled out after licensing is confirmed with EU members. In total, the satellite launch is expected to cost $200m and the land-based deployment will cost a similar amount.
Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat’s CEO, said, “North America has seen rapid take-up of in-flight passenger connectivity services, with installation and usage both growing very quickly. The success of the Gogo air-to-ground network has already triggered the building of a second competing network by AT&T, one of the world’s largest telecommunications operators. We believe that the same in-flight connectivity opportunity exists in Europe and that, with the support of EU telecoms regulators, Inmarsat can rapidly bring to market unique, high speed aviation passenger connectivity services to meet this market demand on an EU-wide basis. A number of European airlines are aligned with this vision and we are absolutely delighted to announce advanced discussions with British Airways to be a launch customer on our new aviation network.”