Inmarsat Unveils Major Upgrade Of Ka-Band Network

Inmarsat JX Evolution
Credit: Inmarsat

Satellite communications (satcom) provider Inmarsat says it will upgrade its Jet ConneX (JX) service for business aviation to vastly increase inflight download speeds.

During the EBACE conference in Geneva in late May, Inmarsat unveiled JX Evolution, an upgrade of its existing JX Ka-band service used on 1,150 business aircraft. Initial testing has demonstrated data speeds to the aircraft in excess of 130 Mbps based on five current satellites, the company said.

Current JX packages offer maximum data rates up to 20 Mbps. JX Evolution, accessed using second-generation satcom terminals, will support more concurrent users on an aircraft consuming more data. At 130 Mbps, a standard high-definition movie of 3 GB in size would take 23 sec. to download, Inmarsat says.

“Speeds in excess of 130 Mbps are exciting, and customers can expect even higher numbers as we launch more advanced satellites in the coming years,” said Kai Tang, Inmarsat head of business aviation. “Our fully funded technology roadmap will offer more than enough capacity to meet the needs of existing and future customers through to 2030 and beyond.”

Inmarsat’s technology roadmap calls for introducing seven new satellites to its Ka-band constellation, increasing the total number to 12. The new spacecraft include two Inmarsat-6 hybrid Ka-band/L-band satellites due to enter service in 2023, two highly elliptical orbit satellites dedicated to Arctic coverage and three geostationary satellites.

The JX Evolution announcement did not specify an entry into service date or mention Inmarsat’s pending acquisition by Viasat, a $7.3 billion transaction that was announced in November 2021 and is expected to close this year. Viasat, which operates satellites and builds its own satcom terminals, claims to be capable of delivering Ka-band data speeds of up to 100 Mbps to business jet cabins.

Inmarsat earlier announced the SwiftJet upgrade of its L-band network to support 2.6 Mbps maximum data speed, which would be six times faster than existing business aviation connectivity systems over L-band. The company’s SwiftBroadband L-band service is used on 4,500 business aircraft.

JX Evolution will lead to a new range of service plans for JX, which entered commercial service in November 2016, and connect with second-generation satcom terminals under development by Inmarsat partner suppliers. Honeywell currently provides JetWave tail-mount antennas for JX service; other tail-mount systems are being developed by Satcom Direct and Orbit Communications Systems.

Bill Carey

Bill covers business aviation and advanced air mobility for Aviation Week Network. A former newspaper reporter, he has also covered the airline industry, military aviation, commercial space and uncrewed aircraft systems. He is the author of 'Enter The Drones, The FAA and UAVs in America,' published in 2016.