Inmarsat launches new data service

Inmarsat has launched a new data service providing ISDN Internet and e-mail access to passengers on aircraft.

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By  Philip Fenton Published  April 16, 2002

Inmarsat has launched a new high-speed data service that allows aircraft passengers to access e-mails and browse the Internet whilst in the air.

The new service, Swift 64, currently runs over ISDN and is only being offered to the corporate jet market, although an expansion is planned in the near future, explained David Walker, maritime business development manager at Inmarsat.

“Initially Swift is being launched as an ISDN service to the corporate jet market,” he said. “ By about the middle of the year there will be a packet data version of that based on standard IP protocols, and then by later this year it will be launched to the commercial airline industry: passenger jets and so forth.”

The majority of passenger aircraft already use Inmarsat systems for passenger calls and some safety information, making the move to data services a natural progression, said Walker.

“It uses the existing Inmarsat antenna that many aircraft around the world already have. Since about 1990 we’ve been offering aviation communication services: the handset on the back of the seat is being relayed over the Inmarsat network.

“A lot of the cockpit communications, weather reports, all that kind of thing are relayed over Inmarsat. Something like 70 per cent of modern long haul jets already have the Inmarsat antenna on board, so by installing a Swift terminal you use that same antenna to expand its data capability. You can wire up the in-flight entertainment system to provide Internet access, e-mail access to passengers and crew.”

The launch is part of an ongoing effort to extend connectivity to all regions of the world, said Walker. “The aim is to bring the same sort of connectivity to passengers on aircraft that they could have in their offices. It’s a continuation of Global Area Network (GAN), a land based service we launched, initially as an ISDN service, in 1999.

“That’s the basis that Swift is worked on, they’re much more refined versions of that [GAN]. The basis is that wherever you need to be, Inmarsat will give you the capability to operate your business applications.”

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