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Inmarsat to launch in-flight connectivity network for the EU

Inmarsat has revealed plans to deploy on an EU-wide basis, an integrated telecommunications network for the delivery of in-flight broadband services to commercial and business aviation passengers.

To support the in-flight broadband offering, Inmarsat has ordered a new S-band satellite to be called Europasat, with a scheduled delivery for launch at the end of 2016. The satellite is expected to complement a fully integrated air-to-ground network across the EU. These capabilities will be offered alongside Inmarsat’s Global Xpress aviation services, extending Inmarsat’s service coverage worldwide.

“North America has seen rapid take-up of in-flight passenger connectivity services, with installation and usage both growing very quickly,” said Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat’s CEO. “We believe that the same in-flight connectivity opportunity exists in Europe. A number of European airlines are aligned with this vision and we are absolutely delighted to announce advanced discussions with British Airways to be a launch customer on our new aviation network.”

“British Airways is in discussions with Inmarsat about leading Europe in a new era of broadband in the air,” commented Kate Thornton, Head of Product and Service at British Airways. “Starting with UK domestic routes Inmarsat intends to deploy Europe’s first ground-based 4G broadband network giving our customers the internet access they expect on the ground while in the air.”

To reduce initial programme costs, Inmarsat and Hellas-Sat, a European satellite operator, have contracted with Thales Alenia Space for the construction of a satellite on a shared basis such that each partner will retain exclusive rights to a separate payload. As a result of the shared payload agreement, Inmarsat’s costs for the manufacture, launch, insurance and operations of Europasat are expected to be approximately $200m or half of what it would have cost to deploy an S-band satellite on a stand-alone basis. The majority of the expected cost will be incurred over a 3-year period.

The aviation network deployment will be enabled by Inmarsat’s existing authorisation to operate integrated satellite/terrestrial communications services in 30MHz of S-band frequencies across the 28 Member States of the EU. Inmarsat has already commenced the licensing process with EU Member States in order to allow timely deployment of the new aviation services.

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