Inmarsat's Ka-band satellite communications and Wi-Fi system is now installed in more than 600 business jets, just three years after it became available. The JetWave airborne hardware manufactured by Honeywell runs on the Inmarsat Global Xpress Ka-band satellite network, delivering high-speed broadband service that allows multiple users to conduct data-intensive tasks such as streaming video and sending and receiving emails with large attachments. Honeywell’s calls the service it offers Jet Connex.
The current Inmarsat Ka-band network consists of four high-throughput satellites, and there are plans to launch eight more payloads to continue improving Global Express capacity and provide coverage over the Arctic region. Added payloads will enable Inmarsat to direct ultra-high-power capacity on areas with high-demand flight patterns and seasonal surges. “Shaped beams will be able to maximize capacity over customers where they need it,” said Inmarsat senior v-p Kai Tang. Inmarsat’s exhibit (Booth C8032) includes a virtual-reality presentation on the network’s digital evolution.
On Tuesday at NBAA-BACE, Honeywell (Booth N4302) invited journalists to fly on the company’s Falcon 7X equipped with JetWave, to try out the Jet Connex service. Thirteen people were on board and most tested the satcom service with multiple devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones.
I tested a FaceTime phone call, streamed a Netflix movie, and used various messaging services, many simultaneously, as pilots Pam Mannon and Rob Rettig flew over the Grand Canyon at FL370. Jet Connex worked well and I was able to accomplish my tasks without interruption, although the FaceTime call clearly put a load on the network. Typically, it’s not likely that so many people would use the network so hard at the same time.
The 7X is also equipped with Honeywell’s GoDirect Router, providing the local Wi-Fi connections inside the airplane, although the JetWave equipment can work with other router types. The smallest aircraft that can accommodate the antenna required for Jet Connex is a Challenger 605 or Falcon 2000, but new upcoming flat-panel antennas will enable installations in smaller aircraft.