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German airline Lufthansa has signed a 10-year contract with satellite broadband provider Inmarsat to offer its Global Xpress (GX) high-speed in-flight broadband service on 150 aircraft in its European continental fleet.
The contract formalises a memorandum of understanding between the two firms signed in September 2015, and establishes a contract framework for other airlines owned by the Lufthansa Group, including Austrian Air and low-cost operator Germanwings.
GX promises to offer seamless wireless connectivity in the air, according to Inmarsat, which has already launched three satellites in support of a service launch by Christmas 2015, and plans to put another in orbit in 2016.
The satellites operate a combination of fixed narrow spot and steerable beams to enable delivery of higher browsing speeds through more compact terminals while offering additional capacity on the fly, if needed.
The service itself operates in the more resilient Ka-band, set to be the fastest option for in-flight broadband when fully available, but integrates into Inmarsat’s existing L-band network. Besides airlines, it is also being pitched at maritime companies and military and public sector organisations.
Lufthansa hopes to have the first of its airlines kitted out and tested in summer 2016, and will be trialling the European Aviation Network (EAN), a combination of Inmarsat satellites and an LTE-based ground network being provided by national telco Deutsche Telekom, in 2017. It is believed the EAN will offer cost efficiencies and more adaptability to suit changing demands in years to come.
The airline said it would be able to offer its European passengers the ability to browse the internet, watch videos, download files and even connect to corporate virtual private networks with a “reliable connection that matches the quality and speed that they expect when they’re on the ground”.
“We are very pleased to conclude this strategic agreement with Lufthansa Group, which ensures that Lufthansa will be offering their continental fleet passengers the best in-flight connectivity in the airline industry today,” said Inmarsat Aviation president Leo Mondale.
“As part of this agreement we will be working with Lufthansa Technik and Lufthansa Systems for the integration of our services on-board the aircraft, making the most of their state-of-the-art products, technology and know-how.”