Inmarsat’s Jet ConneX Ka-band satcom service is soaring, with this week’s announcements by Bombardier, Dassault and Embraer about equipping their aircraft with the high-speed satcom systems. Suddenly, L-Band and Ku-band hardware seem passé. Jet ConneX typically provides 15 Mbps download speeds for business aircraft, with others providing a mere 6 Mbps or even just 1.

Customers can’t even get guaranteed satcom connectivity speeds from other suppliers, says Jet ConneX business and general aviation chief Kurt Weidemeyer.

“This is the first time anybody has had this much capability on an aircraft,” Weidemeyer says. Inmarsat has three fifth-generation I-5 satcom satellites parked over Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean regions. Each provide 89 spot beams, providing global satcom coverage up to 82-deg. latitude. A fourth, recently launched I-5 is being positioned to boost capacity even further. Inmarsat plans to launch two additional Ka-band-capable satellites in the early 2020s to add even more capability.

Inmarsat Global Xpress Ka-band connectivity investment (Jet ConneX is the business aviation brand) represents an outlay of some $1.6 billion, representing a paradigm shift for the company. Its original charter was to provide maritime and aero safety services satcom connectivity. Passenger internet access via L-band satcom was an afterthought.

Global Xpress, in contrast, offers up to 50 Mbps speeds for airliners and cruise ships. It’s the heart of Inmarsat’s new push to become a highly profitable enterprise in the 21st century.