Inmarsat’s fifth-generation satellites, with their Ka band Global Xpress capabilities, offer near worldwide Jet ConneX broadband satcom inflight and ground coverage for business aircraft operators. Partner firms have developed STCs for “multiple aircraft manufacturers and aftermarket installers.”

By using higher-speed Ka band frequencies with considerably more bandwidth, Jet ConneX enables web browsing, live television streaming, file downloads “and more,” Inmarsat says, “with seamless global coverage that ensures a consistent service on flight routes worldwide.”

It is “a transformative connectivity service for the business aviation industry,” Inmarsat says.

Not so fast, says Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg. His Carlsbad firm is investing $1.4 billion during the next five years to provide less-expensive Ka broadband satcom connectivity for business aviation operators, along with commercial airline, government mobile customers and consumers.

Viasat has been providing airline customers with Ka band connectivity over the U.S., offering each passenger up to 12 mbps internet service. Partner Eutelsat is providing Ka band satcom service over Europe. Viasat’s Ka band equipment for business aircraft is just now becoming available.

Viasat uses different Ka band aircraft hardware and different satcom digital communications protocols from Inmarsat’s Jet ConneX, so business aircraft operators won’t be able to switch between the two competing Ka band service providers without making major and expensive modifications to their aircraft.

Viasat’s three-vehicle Viasat-3 constellation, providing the same near-worldwide coverage as Inmarsat-5, won’t be in service until 2020. Viasat-3 promises to offer 3-terabit-per-second total capacity – several times that of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress.

Even so, Inmarsat is off to a strong head start. “Interest from the market has been overwhelming,” said Inmarsat business and general aviation VP Kurt Weidemeyer.

Inmarsat named Honeywell as the only authorized manufacturer of hardware to access the Jet ConneX service. Honeywell offers JetWave equipment, including modem and router hardware, with tail-mounted MCS-8000 antenna and controller for business aircraft.

“Honeywell has been attracting strong market demand since even before the service’s commercial service introduction was achieved,” said Honeywell Aerospace marketing and product management VP Carl Esposito.

“There are eight aircraft models that have been certified for JetWave installation and over 20 certifications in progress – with hardware delivering now,” he said.

Prominent among them is the Falcon 7X, using the trijet’s existing radome, with even faster connectivity speeds promised when a new Ka-radome becomes available. The upgrade to JetWave requires just a simple installation, Honeywell says, and can be booked today.

Gulfstream was quick to note that Jet ConneX uses Inmarsat’s three-satellite I-5 network, and will be available to G650ER, G650, G550 and G450 operators as a completions option and retrofit beginning in 2017.

Rockwell Collins reported delivery of a Bombardier Global 6000 to Singapore-based Zetta Jet – the first of type with Inmarsat’s Jet ConneX. Rockwell Collins is the service provider and “a value-added reseller” of the Inmarsat product as part of its ARINCDirect offering.

Lufthansa Technik said it’s begun installations for the Lufthansa Group’s entire Airbus A320 aircraft family – a total of about 300 jets – with the Airbus A330 and Boeing 737 to follow over the short term.

Satcom Direct is an Inmarsat distributor.

“A rigorous testing process for Jet ConneX was successfully completed over the past eight months, with the support of our customers, distribution partners and Honeywell,” said Inmarsat’s Weidemeyer.

“We logged thousands of flight hours, flew to every continent in the world and ran hundreds of tests to put the system under stresses that are well beyond that expected in normal business passenger use,” he said, “all to ensure we have the most reliable high-speed broadband for private jet flights in the world.”

Jet ConneX customers will have high-speed connectivity over 100% of major aircraft routes and every island globally, off major routes, Inmarsat says. “Customers will have sufficient speed to stream Netflix, while sending emails and text messages”– all simultaneously while flying at 500 mph.

Jet ConneX for business aviation provides data plans and speeds to accommodate the needs of multiple users, all at the same time, in the same aircraft, the company says.

Some business aircraft operators, though, are holding off on making a decision on Ka band equipment. They’re structurally and electrically provisioning their aircraft for Ka band avionics, but they’re not making any hasty commitments. Some are planning first to install Viasat’s Ku band satcom equipment, then upgrading to Ka band when Viasat-3 is up and operational.

With such strong competition from Inmarsat and Viasat, business aircraft operators likely will be the big winners.