Another NBAA, another installation milestone from Inmarsat. The satellite communications provider has announced that its Jet ConneX product, an inflight Wi-Fi system for business jets, has been installed on its 600th aircraft.

The rate of take-up for the three-year-old product remains remarkably consistent – Inmarsat announced the 400th installation at NBAA last year, after claiming 200 aircraft in the system’s first year in service. Yet the headline figure isn’t really the metric that most matters to the company, according to their senior vice president of business and general aviation.

“At Inmarsat we’re always going to be a lot more focused on the customer experience and ensuring they have the consistent and reliable service they expect from us,” he says. “We spend a lot more time focusing on that than on the numbers of aircraft [the system is installed on].”

Ensuring that a product like Jet ConneX delivers on its makers’ promise is by no means simple or straightforward. Expectations from end-users in the back of business jets may be clear, but they are demanding.

“These are customers who value reliability, and who value consistent performance,” Tang says. “They don’t have time for something to kind of work, or almost work, and they tend to fly whenever and wherever pleases them, or wherever their business takes them. Satellite connectivity is not what they want to be thinking about when they get on the plane and turn on their phone or their iPod or their laptop. It needs to just be there, and needs to just work.”

This brings significant challenges for a satcom provider. The end-user wants inflight digital connectivity for multiple devices onboard that is of comparable performance to what they are used to on the ground, and without any outages or service-speed bottlenecks arising just because they may be flying to a comparatively remote region. Service speeds will depend not just on having sufficient satellites to provide coverage to the entire globe, but on making sure that the bandwidth available is sufficient to cope with large numbers of users all wanting access in the same place at the same time. Hence Inmarsat’s recent announcements detailing a number of new satellite launches.

“Unlike many satellite operators out there, Inmarsat has consistently demonstrated a history of developing and launching satellites ahead of need,” Tang says. “We’re not typical, in that we don’t wait for demand to build up so we can guarantee ourselves revenue to launch another satellite. And we’ve always launched global constellations, global service – where many in this space tend to put up capacity over a region; then, as they build up some experience in service they add other spots in the world, or add to their existing region if they see that customers are starting to sense congestion.”