Inmarsat upgrades JetConneX to JX Evolution to boost connectivity
Inmarsat is upgrading in-flight connectivity speeds for its service JetConneX (JX). The upgraded hardware, JX Evolution, has speeds of more than 130Mbps – equivalent to downloading a HD movie in less than 30 seconds. Inmarsat has also revealed plans for hybrid connectivity solutions it plans to launch in the near future.
The increased speeds come courtesy of seven satellites being introduced to Inmarsat’s Ka-band constellation, increasing the total number to 12. This includes two commercial communications satellites, known as Inmarsat-6s, which will enter service next year.
“We’re quite proud of JX because we already have about 1,200 subscribers and customers. That’s a really big deal,” Kai Tang, head of Business Aviation, Inmarsat told Corporate Jet Investor at European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland. “If you start to look at all the connected aircraft worldwide, we are a huge part of that. The feedback from OEM’s has been great. We are line fit for pretty much every large cabin and long-range aircraft there is.”
The Inmarsat-6s will be followed by two payloads in highly elliptical orbit, enabling commercial mobile broadband service for business jets flying in higher latitudes and across the Arctic. The company will also add a further three satellites in geostationary orbit.
Tang reported soaring demand for in-flight broadband that was fast, reliable, and consistent, especially since the pandemic. Industry sources, including CJI’s recent connectivity survey conducted in partnership with Inmarsat, show owners and charterers increasingly expect the same connectivity in the air as in the office or at home. It’s a trend everyone expects to continue. “Inmarsat’s JX Evolution follows our ethos of building ahead of demand,” said Tang.
JX Evolution uses the latest advancements in terminals from Inmarsat’s partners. Inmarsat’s use of lightweight designs aims to optimise performance, reduce costs, and simplify the installation and maintenance processes.
“Our fully-funded technology roadmap will offer more than enough capacity to meet the needs of existing and future customers through to 2030 and beyond,” said Tang. “We are especially excited about the second-generation terminals that our partners are building to join the very successful JetWave terminal currently used for JX.”
JX Evolution will continuously update for JX customers, which first entered commercial service in November 2016. The service is an option used by major business jet manufacturers such Gulfstream, Bombardier and Dassault.
The service has received certificates and supplemental type certificates (STCs) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Tang told CJI Inmarsat already has six satellites ready to launch in the next three years. Their introduction will consolidate the currently established networks and lay the groundwork for its next project. “We will continue to invest in both the L-band service, SwiftJet and Ka-band JX. What we envision beyond this, is a hybrid network called Orchestra.”
Orchestra will be a combination of satellites, both geosynchronous orbit and low earth orbit, as well as 5G terrestrial technology. “Orchestra, as the name implies, is where we take all these networks and orchestrate them in a way to give customers the most seamless connected experience possible,” said Tang.
“We’re pretty excited about the speed of JX Evolution. That’s with the satellites and ground infrastructure that’s already there, so, what might this mean when we have more advanced satellites?” Tang’s answer was: “This can be a reminder for people that are already excited about Orchestra.”
Meanwhile, Inmarsat also launched SwiftJet, said to be business aviation’s “fastest L-band in-flight connectivity service”, at EBACE.
Pictured above: An Inmarsat-6 F2 satellite enters a thermal vacuum testing facility.
Inmarsat’s latest geostationary satellite I-6 F2 makes its way towards thermal vacuum testing. The satellite is made by Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage and Portsmouth in the UK prior to final assembly and testing in Toulouse, France. I-6 F2 will be tested thoroughly for several months.
The diameter of the Airbus testing chamber pictured is 10m,and it is capable of creating temperature extremes from -173 Celsius to 120 Celsius (-279 to 248 Fahrenheit). This includes rapid cycling and long-duration (30-day) temperature plateaus to simulate the harsh conditions of space.
The I-6 F2, almost as large as a double-decker bus and with a solar array ‘wingspan’ larger than a Boeing 767, will be launched in Q1 2023 by SpaceX from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. It follows its ‘twin’ I-6 F1, which was launched by MHI in Japan in December 2021. The I-6 series of satellites are the most sophisticated commercial communications satellites ever and are operated from 36,000km (~22,500 miles) above the Earth at Inmarsat’s control centre in London, UK. (Credit: Inmarsat / Airbus Defence and Space.)