is expanding its partnership with Inmarsat, signing a five-year agreement to serve as a “master distributor” of the GX Aviation inflight connectivity services for the business aviation market.
Honeywell previously had signed an agreement to develop and provide hardware for the services using Inmarsat’s planned Global Xpress satellite system. But the new agreement marks Honeywell’s first entry into distribution of the actual service itself. Inmarsat has selected OnAir and Gogo to provide the service to the commercial airlines.
The companies did not detail the agreement’s value, but says it covers the purchase of GX capacity for five years and reserve capacity up to 2021.
As a master distributor, Honeywell will assemble a network of service providers that will offer the Ka-band services to business aircraft operators. Miranda Mills, vice president Global Xpress for Inmarsat, says the first of those providers could be lined up in time for the National Business Aviation Association’s annual meeting and convention later this month.
The service is expected to be rolled out for the business aviation community in early 2015, although Mills expects some testing will take place in advance of that.
Once rolled out, the service will provide global connectivity at rates of up to 50 mbps. It is initially designed for large business jets, with Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband service continuing to provide connectivity for midsize and smaller jets. Gogo’s Aircell is a partner on the Swiftbroadband service. Mills did not rule out the possibility of expanding the Global Xpress service to smaller jets long term.
The services are targeted for the cabin, though Mills says it could eventually find its way into the cockpit. But she adds that “we see the high growth in the cabin.” This is particularly true with business aviation, which she calls an “early adopter market” for new technologies.
“There is a trend in bring-your-own devices on board,” Mills says, adding that with the GX service, the passenger is not restricted to the installed cabin communications equipment. “It’s one way to keep the equipment current,” she says.
Honeywell was selected over other potential service providers, she says, because the company was willing to commit to a significant “capacity purchase,” and because of its experience with inflight connectivity with some 15,000 business and general aviation aircraft.