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  • Honeywell, Inmarsat Reach Inflight-Connectivity Deal
    Posted by Amy Svitak 8:34 AM on Apr 18, 2012

    Aerospace supplier Honeywell says it has signed an exclusive agreement with Inmarsat to provide global in-flight connectivity services to business, commercial and government aviation customers.

    The services will be provided through London-based Inmarsat’s Global Xpress network, the first Ka-band constellation designed to provide global inflight broadband to the aeronautical, maritime and land-mobile markets.

    Honeywell estimates the deal to be worth $2.8 billion in hardware sales and aftermarket services to aircraft manufacturers, airlines and government entities over the next 20 years.

    Carl Esposito, vice president of marketing and product management at Honeywell, declines to discuss the company’s assumptions behind the $2.8 billion in anticipated revenue expected over the next two decades, but he says Honeywell sees a 20% global growth rate in broadband installations on aircraft in the next five years.

    “We’re seeing the adoption rate of airborne connectivity really pick up,” Esposito says. “Particularly with this product and the global nature of the Inmarsat system, it really enables global connectivity for air transport aircraft as well as business-jet aircraft and government users, potentially UAVs or other high-bandwidth users of satellite air time.”

    Inmarsat is slated to begin launching its next-generation Global Xpress constellation next year, with global online services for aviation customers available in 2014. The company says the constellation is designed from the ground up with the mobile broadband user in mind, and will offer much higher bandwidth speeds in Ka-band than services that currently use crowded Ku-band frequencies.

    Recognizing inflight broadband as a growth area, Esposito says Honeywell positioned itself to bring satellite-based asset tracking and telecom equipment to the market last year with the $491-million acquisition of Atlanta-based EMS Technologies. He says Inmarsat’s experience in aviation satellite communications, coupled with Honeywell’s background in airborne satcom, “is a really winning combination.” But Honeywell was not Inmarsat’s first choice.

    Last summer the satellite operator announced an agreement in principle with Rockwell Collins that called for the Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based company to build aircraft end-user terminals and antennas while also providing service distribution. Negotiations were expected to lead to definitive agreements by December last year, but talks abruptly ceased in March, several months after Inmarsat announced agreements with service providers Gogo and OnAir.

    Esposito says Honeywell’s expertise in aircraft subsystems allows it to adopt a more comprehensive approach to aeronautical broadband, and that the company is looking beyond passenger connectivity to improve aircraft systems for operators.

    “We’re looking for ways to utilize this broadband pipe to create new maintenance and service offerings for aircraft systems,” he says. “For example, onboard data loading or being able to look at the maintenance history of pieces of equipment, being able to look at the real time information about how the aircraft is performing, and being able to have much broader connectivity and bandwidth for diagnostics of the aircraft.”

    With demand for data traffic expected to grow over the next few years by a factor of 50 for smartphones and a factor of 62 for tablets, Esposito says Honeywell is banking on insatiable consumer demand for connectivity.

    “Just because the door of the aircraft closes doesn’t mean the information flow has to stop for passengers,” Esposito says. “The explosion of tablet devices and smart phones continues to proliferate and passengers are demanding that type of connectivity.”

    Tags: os99, Honeywell, Inmarsat, Global Xpress, Rockwell Collins, IFE

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