Companies to work on satellite-based in-flight wireless communications system to boost speeds up to 50 Mbps by 2014

Honeywell, Inmarsat to improve in-flight connectivity

LONDON  — Honeywell Inc. and satellite communications provider Inmarsat plc will work on next-generation in-flight connectivity systems that will increase the maximum bandwidth to 50 Mbps (bits per second), they said on Wednesday.
 
Honeywell will develop the onboard hardware that will connect to Inmarsat’s Global Xpress network.
 
The bandwidth increase is possible thanks to the system’s use of the Ka-band, which is found between 26.5GHz and 40GHz.

The availability of larger chunks of spectrum in that band — compared to what current systems have at their disposal in the Ku-band — makes the increase to a maximum 50 Mbps possible, according to a spokesman at Inmarsat. That compares to Inmarsat’s existing system, which offers speeds at up to 0.4Mbps, he said.
 
To improve performance, the Global Xpress network will also use spot beam technology, which in turn uses lots of smaller beams of data to communicate between the satellite and the ground, the spokesman said.
 
Global Xpress is scheduled for launch in 2013, with global service availability for commercial, business aviation and government customers during 2014.
 
The market for in-flight communication systems will get more competitive in the future. Deutsche Telekom, Alcatel-Lucent and aircraft manufacturer Airbus have tested data communication between an aircraft and the ground, using LTE, which will help make in-flight data access cheaper, they said in March.
 
Systems that use LTE are expected to become commercially available in 2015. The timing of the introduction is dependant on several factors, including the availability of spectrum, a spokesman at Alcatel-Lucent said via email at the time.
 
The deal between Honeywell and Inmarsat is exclusive and is estimated to result in US$2.8 billion for Honeywell in sales of hardware, customer service, and maintenance to airlines, governments and OEMs over the next two decades, according to a statement.

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