STAYING CONNECTED IN THE SKY
Ben Griffin, Regional Director Middle East and Africa, Inmarsat Aviation, talks about the company's tie-up with Qatar Airways, and discusses in-flight connectivity.
Ben Griffin, Regional Director Middle East and Africa, Inmarsat Aviation, talks about the company's tie-up with Qatar Airways, and discusses in-flight connectivity. BY UDAYAN NAG
Earlier this year, in a major deal struck between British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat and Qatar Airways (QA), the latter became the first airline from the Middle East to select GX Aviation's in-flight broadband solution for its passengers. The certification is expected to be achieved shortly and the high-speed broadband services should be available sometime in July. According to Ben Griffin, Regional Director Middle East and Africa, Inmarsat Aviation, Qatar Airways initially selected Inmarsat's GX Aviation for its entire B777 and A350 fleets. The installation of this equipment onto the aircraft is under way on both fleets.
“On the B777, this is being retrofitted onto the fleet, a process that requires full certification for airworthiness – as is the procedure for any installation on an airliner,” says Griffin. “On the A350 aircraft, the equipment is being line-fit (factory fit) by Airbus and will be activated later this year.”
Also, QA recently came up with the Qsuite, a novel concept for its businessclass passengers, which Griffin feels is “truly revolutionary” and shows the focus Qatar Airways has on passenger comfort and cabin flexibility. However, he clarifies that the in-flight connectivity (IFC) system does not directly integrate or benefit from the many features of the Qsuite.
“It is an important part of the overall investment into Qatar Airways' passengers and their demands for the highest levels of service and comfort. The provision of dependable, high-quality broadband to passengers flying in the Qsuite will only enhance the total experience.”
He adds that since Qatar Airways is its regional launch customer, Inmarsat is proud to be ensuring a successful
“WE WILL BE ENHANCING OUR SAFETY AND COCKPIT SERVICES TO ENSURE AIRLINES AND AIRCRAFT OPERATORS ARE ABLE TO HARNESS THE POWER OF INMARSAT IN ALL SECTIONS OF THE AIRCRAFT FOR ALL PURPOSES.” BEN GRIFFIN Regional Director Middle East and Africa Inmarsat Aviation
programme with them, but that many of the airlines in the Middle East are evaluating broadband connectivity and Inmarsat would be pleased to deliver similar services to them.
Another crucial development involving Inmarsat is its integrated satellite and airto-ground network by which passengers flying over Europe are expected to enjoy a reliable high-bandwidth broadband service in the air that matches their expectations on the ground. Partnering Inmarsat in this enterprise is German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom.
“The European Aviation Network (EAN) can provide up to 75Mbps to an aircraft,” says Griffin. “We can support hundreds of aircraft with high-quality broadband even during peak hours in busy traffic areas. Also, as the ground component is entirely scalable, adding further capacity to this network is both technically and economically viable.”
As far as a direct comparison between EAN and the Inmarsat- Qatar Airways tie-up is concerned, Griffin says that the passenger demands of QA would be continuously monitored to ensure that the bandwidth available is similar to what's available on the ground.
Prior to joining Inmarsat, Griffin was employed at AeroMobile, the first company to implement a GSM on board a commercial aircraft. He also worked as an aerodrome controller in Air Traffic Control in the UK before that. Those experiences have stood him in good stead in relation to his current appointment.
“My time at AeroMobile helped me to understand how airlines work, how passengers' expectations and experiences develop, and how underwhelmed passengers can be by delivering a solution that invoices a 72,000 km round trip to deliver an SMS.
“As far as my time in Air Traffic Control is concerned, it taught me how to be orderly and logical and to always have a plan B. Most importantly, it helped me to develop the capability to be calm in potentially testing situations. This has proved invaluable throughout my career.”
And finally, where does Inmarsat fit into the Middle-Eastern airline market, and what are the company's plans for the aviation business in the near future?
“The Middle-Eastern airline market is fascinating and exciting, and the ability to convert concepts into reality is unrivalled around the world,” says Griffin.
“Our roadmap for new services is always evolving. In addition to our progress in the IFC space, we will be enhancing our safety and cockpit services to ensure airlines and aircraft operators are able to harness the power of Inmarsat in all sections of the aircraft for all purposes.”
Inmarsat's fourth GX satellite was launched by SpaceX at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 15, 2017.
Two technicians installing the radome for Inmarsat's GX Aviation in-flight broadband service.