Inmarsat aero revenues soar
After more than 15 years as the poor relation of its maritime and land-mobile equivalents, Inmarsat’s aeronautical business has at last emerged as a significant contributor to the revenues of the London-based mobile satellite operator.
Announcing its 2008 fourth-quarter and full-year results today, the company revealed that in the three months to the end of December aero revenues grew 52.9 per cent to $18.2 million compared with the same period in 2007. While the maritime and land-mobile figures were higher, at $82.9 million and $34.9 million respectively, growth rates were lower, at 9.8 per cent and 22.9 per cent.
In the full year the aero business grew 45.4 per cent, again outpacing traditional top dogs maritime (7.2 per cent) and land-mobile (12.7 per cent). The company attributes the aeronautical performance to sustained demand for and high levels of usage of the established Swift 64 64kbit/sec service, primarily by government and business aircraft users.
This can only presage future good news from the sector – the company has just completed round-the-world coverage for its SwiftBroadband 432kbit/sec offering, introduced 18 months ago, and is now seeing it entering full commercial service with growing numbers of airlines.
This year Wataniya Airways of Kuwait and Royal Jordanian have introduced the SwiftBroadband-based OnAir onboard mobile phone service, while Ryanair is engaged in a 20-aircraft trial as installations of the equipment continue on the rest of its fleet. The service is also being trialled by bmi of the UK and TAP Portugal, and is being evaluated by Air France following a trial last summer.
OnAir expects to have a total of 14 committed airlines by the end of this year. Among those already announced, Malaysian operators Air Asia and Air Asia X are set to be the next to launch, followed by British Airways on its new London City-New York service in September, TAM of Brazil in the third quarter, and Oman Air by the end of the year. Other announced customers are Airblue of Pakistan, Jazeera, Kingfisher and Shenzhen Airlines.
OnAir rival AeroMobile is fully operational aboard more than 30 Emirates aircraft, with installations continuing at a rate of one every couple of weeks. On these aircraft the service is supported by existing Inmarsat Classic Aero installations, but the airline has said that it plans to upgrade to SwiftBroadband soon.
In 2008 Inmarsat achieved a 13.5 per cent overall increase in the number of active aeronautical terminals, with fourth-quarter additions to the total of Swift 64 and SwiftBroadband terminals exceeding the third-quarter tally.
Across its core, mobile satellite services, business last year Inmarsat logged revenues of $634.7 million, up 13.9 per cent on 2007, and a pre-tax profit of $193.8 million, up 55.4 per cent. “In 2008 we saw sustained growth across all our market sectors and have delivered results well ahead of market expectations,” said chief executive Andrew Sukawaty. “Despite global economic uncertainty, our core trading results since the start of the year have been positive and we remain cautiously optimistic that we can deliver solid revenue growth in 2009.”