Inmarsat, Honeywell Unveil Enhanced L-Band Service For Bizav

I-6F1
The first of two new I-6 hybrid payload satellites, I-6F1, was launched into orbit in December 2021.
Credit: Inmarsat

GENEVA—Satellite operator Inmarsat and equipment supplier Honeywell have announced the launch of SwiftJet, an enhanced L-band satcoms service for business aviation.

One of the first new services to be introduced as part of Inmarsat’s “Elera” L-band network upgrade announced in August 2021, SwiftJet will support 2.6 Mbps maximum data speed. That is up to six times faster than existing business aviation connectivity systems over L-band, Inmarsat said as it announced the news at EBACE on May 23. Inmarsat’s existing SwiftBroadband L-band service, used by 4,500 business aircraft, supports 432 Kbps per channel.

“SwiftBroadband has been quite successful; it has STCs and certification on practically every aircraft out there and is widely adopted,” said Kai Tang, Inmarsat head of business aviation. “When we launched it back in 2008, it was a high-speed connectivity service at up to 432 Kbps. We’re really excited to be able to now allow many of those customers to do a quick, easy upgrade, and with that upgrade they will have access to a new product—SwiftJet—which will enable up to 2.6 Mbps. When I first joined Inmarsat, no one believed L-band could ever get to a megabit-per-second [level].”

Once it enters service next year, SwiftJet will support in-flight video calls, web browsing, email, texting and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams. “Social media and video applications such as TikTok and YouTube, which were previously challenging over L-band, will also be enabled,” Inmarsat said. The service also creates new opportunities for smaller jets that have been restricted to basic voice or text connectivity, the company added.

The Elera network upgrade is anchored on Inmarsat’s new sixth-generation I-6 geostationary satellites, which carry dual L- and Ka-band payloads. The first of two I-6 satellites launched into orbit in December 2021; the second is scheduled for launch in 2023. Plans call for SwiftJet, supported by existing I-4 as well as new I-6 satellites, to enter service in the first half of 2023.

SwiftJet will be available to operators who may already have SwiftBroadband and separately, Jet ConneX (JX), Inmarsat’s Ka-band service, which is equipped on 1,150 business aircraft. Existing SwiftBroadband customers “will benefit from a natural upgrade path without needing to replace any externally-mounted aircraft equipment,” Inmarsat said.

“On day 1, when we launch this next year, a lot of customers—particularly the ones with the Honeywell kit—will be able to upgrade their [satcom] terminal at a six-times increase in speed,” Tang told ShowNews. “It’s essentially a new card in the [avionics] box. What we expect Honeywell will do is offer it as an upgrade of your card, which resides inside one of the boxes that are already on the aircraft. It’s really as simple as a card replacement.”

Honeywell and Cobham supply satcom terminals for SwiftBroadband. Honeywell is offering SwiftJet L-band service for pre-order, with additional incentives for early adopters, the companies announced.

“With Inmarsat we have created a straightforward upgrade path for SwiftBroadband customers, giving them easy access to unprecedented internet speeds over L-band without having to change wiring or antenna hardware,” said Adam Sheppard, Honeywell Aerospace director of aircraft connectivity.

 

Bill Carey

Based in Washington, DC, Bill covers avionics, air traffic management and aviation safety for Aviation Week. A former daily newspaper reporter, he has covered the commercial, business and military aviation segments as well as unmanned aircraft systems. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2017, he worked for Aviation International News and Avionics and Rotor & Wing magazines.