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2013: The year GX Ka-Band became a reality

Around the world, both on the ground and in the air, consumer electronic devices such as smartphones, e-readers, tablets and laptops consume more and more bandwidth, placing increased demand on satellite connectivity and infrastructure. Demand for data traffic is expected to grow by a factor of 50 for smartphones and 62 for tablets. In addition to the bandwidth, the sheer number of consumer electronic devices is poised for explosive growth over the next few years. By 2016, it is estimated that 71% of all mobile traffic will be used for watching videos. As well, a recent survey from Honeywell Aerospace shows that 86% of air travellers expect wi-fi aboard their flights and almost nine in 10 flyers feel frustrated with the current level of access.


Simply put, more people than ever before will use their data-hungry devices in all locations, including in the air, and the current Ku-band satellite network cannot accommodate this exponential growth and demand from passengers.


So how do we make sure airlines, OEMs and passengers have access to a network that is able to handle the increased demand for bandwidth? By creating a global Ka-band network that will be more than 60% faster user experience than alternative systems in the Ku-band network today. Honeywell Aerospace has spent the past year and a half working with partners, OEMs and more to make this GX Ka-band system a reality.


In 2012, Honeywell signed an exclusive agreement with satellite operator Inmarsat to provide global in-flight connectivity services to business and commercial aviation customers around the world via Inmarsat’s high-speed GX Ka-band satellite. Under this agreement Honeywell will design, build and deliver the hardware needed to access Inmarsat’s Ka-band constellation.


Honeywell moved quickly to establish design baseline for the aircraft system that transmits and receives signals from Inmarsat’s Ka-band satellites. In March of this year, Honeywell announced it had finished the preliminary design review of the terminal with Inmarsat – a crucial step to keeping the programme on schedule.


In April, Honeywell and Boeing announced they had entered into a technical services agreement to research and develop technologies for the next generation of high-speed, in-flight wireless connectivity on Boeing platforms including the 787, 777, 737NG and 747-8. The agreement will allow Boeing and Honeywell to jointly research, test and develop the hardware, software and potential services that will utilise Inmarsat’s GX Ka-band satellites and begin the necessary activities to support Honeywell’s new GX Ka-band equipment installation aboard new aircraft in 2015.


Honeywell will be the exclusive distributor to the business aviation market for the high-speed GX Ka-band service. Since entering this partnership with Inmarsat, Honeywell has signed service provider agreements with several major players in the connectivity space including ARINC Direct, OnAir and Satcom Direct, Satcom1 and Aircell. These companies will resell GX Ka-band service from Inmarsat and Honeywell to business aviation operators.


Inmarsat’s first satellite will launch in late 2013. In 2015 when the service is available worldwide, Honeywell and Inmarsat will be able to provide connectivity speeds of up to 49 Mbps to the aircraft, giving passengers truly global, in-flight wi-fi service so they can shop, access email, connect with friends on social networking sites, and enjoy live streaming for entertainment and more and enjoy the same experience they have at home or at work.


As we close out 2013 and move into 2014, passenger demand to access to high-speed, in-flight wi-fi will continue to grow. As airlines look for the best and most cost-effective solutions to enhance their passenger’s experience, Ka-band looms ever larger as the only solution which will provide consumers with the speed and reliability they expect while travelling. The birth of the “connected aircraft” is taking place in front of us and the possibilities have just started to unfold.

 

Jack Jacobs is vice president and general manager for marketing and product management with responsibility for the safety and information management product lines across commercial, business aviation, and defence portfolios at Honeywell Aerospace. Jack is also leading the growth initiative for the “Connected Aircraft” of the future.

 

16 December 2013

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