Saudia To Roll Out New Inmarsat GX IFC Terminal
Saudi Arabia’s national carrier Saudia plans to launch a new inflight-connectivity (IFC) terminal developed by Stellar Blu to support Inmarsat Global Express (GX) service on 35 of its Airbus A321neo and A321XLR aircraft beginning in early 2023.
The deployment of Stellar Blu’s lightweight, low-drag Falcon 300 terminal follows a flight-trial campaign in which its performance was tested across more than 320 simultaneous online user sessions with a sustained throughput of over 200 Mbps. It has received full type approval for use over Inmarsat’s GX satellite network. Stellar Blu will be retrofitting the Falcon 300 post-delivery of the A321neo and A321XLR aircraft.
According to Inmarsat, Falcon 300 has been designed to meet the increasing connectivity needs of airline passengers, allowing them to stream high-definition videos, download documents, browse the internet and social media, and shop online, using personal devices.
“A key aspect is this new, ultra-high-performance terminal with Stellar Blu [formerly GDC Technics], which will provide airlines with optimized connectivity from Day One, plus additional performance enhancements in the future,” Inmarsat Aviation SVP for inflight connectivity William Huot-Marchand says. “The results of our flight trials have demonstrated the terminal’s ability to consistently deliver the highest levels of connectivity, even over the world’s busiest airspaces. And with final type approval now in place, we are fast approaching commercial service at the beginning of next year.”
As part of the first major IFC agreement in the Middle East since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Saudia in late 2021 became GX Aviation’s launch customer in Saudi Arabia. Saudia was also the first airline in the region to select Inmarsat’s OneFi customer experience platform, which the company says will “serve as a catalyst for Saudia to monetize its IFC by bringing a host of onboard services together within a single portal interface.”
The platform, launched in September 2021, allows passengers to order food, beverages and duty-free items, e-books, newspapers and magazines; receive the latest flight and destination information, and sign into Saudia’s AlFursan frequent-flier program.
Huot-Marchand told Aviation Week that presently there are no other publicly announced customers for the Falcon 300 and Inmarsat is “focused on delivering the best solution to Saudia to launch early next year. However, with the demand for reliable global connectivity continuing to grow, we expect to make more announcements in the near future.”
The global pandemic apparently has accelerated passenger demand for digital inflight experiences. According to Inmarsat’s 2021 Passenger Confidence Tracker, digital solutions that keep passengers connected and minimize contact with cabin crew and fellow passengers can go a long way toward boosting confidence. Out of the 10,000 survey respondents, 41% believed inflight Wi-Fi had further increased in importance after the pandemic.