STAY­ING CON­NECTED IN THE SKY

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE -

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.

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