Subscribe Free
in Technology / Features

Qatar passengers get a Super WiFi treat

Posted 2 July 2018 · Add Comment

Qatar Airways has become the first Middle Eastern carrier to offer Inmarsat’s Ka-band GX Aviation (GX) satellite-based in-flight connectivity service to its passengers. Arabian Aerospace technology editor, Steve Nichols, explains the significance.

Super WiFi’ is the name that Qatar Airways is giving to its new, faster, GX in-flight connectivity service, which could offer speeds up to 100 times faster than currently exist.
Qatar’s intention is to install GX across all of its flagship fleet. The company has said that the service will be available to passengers on board more than 130 of its aircraft.
GX hardware, including a fuselage-mounted antenna from Honeywell Aerospace, has already been equipped as line-fit and is being activated on Qatar Airways’ latest Airbus A350s. GX provides global coverage (apart from the poles) from four Inmarsat-owned geostationary satellites.
Following supplemental type certification approval, installations on a retrofit basis are also currently taking place across the airline’s Boeing 777 fleet.
The retrofits have been undertaken by Qatar Airways maintenance teams during scheduled C-check maintenance windows.
Ben Griffin, Inmarsat Aviation vice president, Middle East, Africa and South Asia said: “A total of nine A350-900s and one A350-1000 have been now delivered to Qatar Airways with GX as line-fit.
“Seventeen Qatar Boeing 777s have also now been retrofitted with GX, with a variable installation rate for the rest. Generally, one is being retrofitted at any given time.”
Griffin confirmed that GX is now active on part of the fleet and is being provided to passengers free (for now). Qatar is still to decide when it will start charging.
“GX is performing extremely well on the fleet and ‘as advertised’,” said Griffin. “We are seeing strong take-up rates with high levels of consumption, exactly as we’d expect from the calibre of passengers flying on Qatar Airways. They expect the best levels of service from all aspects of their in-flight experience.”
One journalist reported that the Inmarsat GX system didn’t work properly when he tried it on the first Airbus A350-1000 delivery flight to Doha, Qatar, from Airbus in Toulouse, France.
The reality was that the GX system had not been activated on the aircraft and passengers had actually been using the aircraft’s much slower Inmarsat SwiftBroadband (SBB) connectivity. SBB is used as backup and for cockpit and air traffic control operations.
So why is GX so much quicker than SwiftBroadband?
Inmarsat GX uses much higher Ka-band frequencies with its satellites, which means data throughputs are in the region of 30-50 megabits per second (Mbps), compared with 432kbps with the L-band SwiftBroadband – up to a 100x speed increase.
The confusion came before the A350-1000 flight after Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker, had praised the aircraft for having “the best Wi-Fi” available. A case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing.
I tested GX on a Lufthansa flight over Europe in March 2017. Then the slowest recorded download speed (to the aircraft) was 1.4Mbps and the fastest seen was 14.2Mbps. The average speed to the aircraft was around 10Mbps, while the average speed off the aircraft (when uploading files) was around 5Mbps.
When fully implemented, Qatar Airways says the first hour access will be free, and a $10 plan can be purchased for the full flight with unlimited data downloads.
The airline said there are no restrictions on the paid-for plan, but voice over internet (VOIP) calls are restricted for passengers’ comfort.
Speaking at the 2017 Connected Aircraft eEnablement Conference, Babar Rahman, head of global sponsorships, CSR and IFEC, Qatar Airways, said: “Ground technologies are growing faster than satellite-based technologies, so we won’t have the same speeds as a ground network, but we will get close to the experience passengers are used to.
“Connectivity will allow us to do a lot of things that you never thought were possible as eEnablement and a broadband pipe to the ground can bring a lot of benefits.
“We have a lot of stakeholders within Qatar that are looking at the possibilities with eEnablement.”
 

* required field

Post a comment

Other Stories
Advertisement
Latest News

DC Aviation Al-Futtaim expands managed aircraft fleet

DC Aviation Al-Futtaim (DCAF) has added another Bombardier Challenger aircraft to its managed fleet.

First Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 production engine despatched

The first Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 production engine was despatched yesterday to the Airbus facility in Toulouse, in readiness to power Airbus’s latest aircraft, the A330neo, into service.

Stand out seats

Seating was one of the key focuses when Aircraft Interiors Middle East took place in Dubai in January.

FIA2018: CAE signs commercial aviation training solutions contract with Qatar Airways

CAE has announced today at the 2018 Farnborough Airshow that it has sold five (5) CAE-built full-flight simulators (FFSs) – 3x Boeing 777X and 2x Boeing 737MAX – and two (2) flight training devices (FTDs) – one Boeing 777X and one Boeing

SalamAir to add six new A320neo to its growing fleet

Oman’s first budget airline, SalamAir, has signed an agreement to add six new A320neo aircraft to its fleet, of which five are on lease from an undisclosed lessor.

Embraer foresees demand for 10,550 new aircraft with up to 150 Seats over next 20 years

Embraer forecasts demand for 10,550 new aircraft with up to 150 seats worldwide, worth USD 600 billion, over the next 20 years. The in-service fleet is set to increase to 16,000 aircraft, up from the 9,000 aircraft currently in operation.

TAA SK0902311218
See us at
MAPS18_BT1207131118MEBAA BT1004121218ASDubai BT1004091018Aviation Africa BT0607280219BIAS BT271017161118AIME19BTA3005120219Cargo BT1004091018GATM BT1004061118Istanbul Airshow BT22018