Inmarsat’s 432kbit/sec-per-channel SwiftBroadband service is now available around the world. The London-based mobile satellite operator yesterday announced the completion of a series of manoeuvres to space its three fourth-generation satellites evenly above the equator, yielding full coverage of the whole globe apart from the poles.
The satellites serve three contiguous regions – Europe, the Middle East and Africa; the Americas; and Asia-Pacific – giving SwiftBroadband a broader geographical reach than any other aeronautical high-speed data service.
Aircell’s terrestrially based, megabit-rated Gogo is confined to North America. The similarly megabit-capable ARINC SKYLink/Rockwell Collins eXchange offering for business aviation and the emerging Row 44 and Panasonic Ku-band services are based on leased satellite capacity in selected regions. None of them is expected to rival the overall coverage of SwiftBroadband in the near future.
“SwiftBroadband provides a pipe to the aircraft that can be used for both cockpit and cabin and applications,” says Lars Ringertz, Inmarsat’s head of aeronautical marketing. “We now have a fully funded next-generation network in place, with assured service into the 2020s.”
SwiftBroadband was launched commercially in October 2007, being made available to begin with over the first two Inmarsat-4 satellites, which were on station over the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Launch of the third Inmarsat-4 last summer made it possible for the company to reshuffle its orbital assets and add Pacific coverage.
Inmarsat says SwiftBroadband is being taken up even more rapidly than its earlier aeronautical offerings, the original 10.5kbit/sec Classic Aero and the 64kbit/sec Swift 64. The earliest adopters of SwiftBroadband were government and business operators. But now it is beginning to make a mark in air transport as the air-to-ground link for the OnAir onboard cellphone services just introduced by Royal Jordanian and Wataniya Airways of Kuwait, and being trialled by Ryanair, bmi of the UK and TAP Portugal.
Rival onboard cellphone provider AeroMobile also plans to offers its services over SwiftBroadband in the future. Its launch customer, Emirates, is currently using Classic Aero to support the service during a full-fleet rollout that began last march.