UK-based mobile satellite communications firm Inmarsat is planning to launch the European Aviation Network (EAN) inflight Wi–Fi platform for the business aviation market by January 2019.
The business rollout follows EAN’s successful launch in the commercial airline market. In April, Inmarsat’s aviation business unit president Philip Balaam was hesitant to provide any date for the EAN launch, saying Inmarsat’s customers were very sensitive about the company indicating a timeframe.
EAN is the first in–flight Wi-Fi service that combines Inmarsat satellite connectivity with an LTE-based ground network – operated by Deutsche Telekom. The system covers all 28 EU member states, as well as Switzerland and Norway.
“EAN is a game-changer for the business aviation market, offering gold standard in–flight Wi-Fi to a broad spectrum of aircraft, from small turboprops to larger platforms such as the Citations, Learjets, and Phenoms. It really is ideal for any business jet whose mission keeps them predominantly in Europe,” said Balaam.
Inmarsat claims that the in–flight Wi-Fi platform can support “working with remote business desktops, streaming high-definition videos, enjoying online gaming and sharing images, with service levels that compare to mobile broadband on the ground.”
EAN has already completed a number of flight trials across Europe with partners Cobham, Thales, and Nokia. Aircraft can connect with EAN using ultra-lightweight, low–drag hardware.
Over the next few years, Inmarsat expects it to drive its in–flight connectivity revenues, which rose 40% in Q1 2018 compared with the same period in 2017.
“Our projections show that the European business aviation fleet will grow beyond 5,000 aircraft in the coming years,” added Balaam.
“We expect a strong uptake for EAN by offering a variety of data plans to meet every budget. Work has already commenced with a large business aviation launch customer for the service and planning for our first STC is underway,” said Balaam.