The UK satellite company Inmarsat is to lead the roll-out of new in-flight broadband services for passengers throughout Europe with British Airways (BA) in advanced discussions to be a launch customer.
Inmarsat said it has ordered a new S-band satellite, to be called Europasat, and that it expects to complement this satellite with air-to-ground network across the EU which will deliver "high speed broadband services to commercial and business aviation passengers", the company said.
According to Inmarsat’s chief executive, Rupert Pearce, the in-flight connectivity services will be a multibillion dollar revenue sector by 2020.
Kate Thornton, head of product and service at British Airways, confirmed that BA was in discussions with Inmarsat. "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," she said.
To reduce initial programme costs, Inmarsat and Hellas-Sat, another European satellite operator, have contracted with Thales Alenia Space for the construction of a satellite on a shared basis. Inmarsat's Europasat satellite is expected to be delivered for launch at the end of 2016.
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, the company said.