Qatar Airways Group CEO Al Baker. Photo courtesy of Airbus
Qatar Airways is preparing for the roll out of what it calls “Super Wi-Fi” across a combined fleet of 130 Airbus A350s and Boeing 777 aircraft. When the service goes live, Qatar will become the first commercial airline based in the Middle East to invest in Inmarsat’s GX Aviation technology. Lufthansa became the first airline to operate Inmarsat’s Ka-band broadband service in May 2017. The GX Aviation network features four high-throughoput satellites (HTS), each with 89 spot beams and up to 50 mbps per beam.
Qatar’s aircraft are using Honeywell’s JetWave satellite communications hardware, which includes a Multi-Channel Satellite (MCS) terminal, antenna controller, modem and router hardware, and a tail-mounted antenna dual receivers.
Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker said Qatar’s selection of Inmarsat was driven partially by the company's knowledge of Inmarsat already providing aircraft tracking for its flight operations and future development of the technology.
Here’s what Baker told Avionics about their new Super Wi-Fi in-flight internet technology.
How did the selection of Inmarsat’s GX Aviation technology come about?
We are dedicated to always exceeding the expectations of our passengers when they are traveling with us, therefore we look to provide them with the best the industry has to offer. Inmarsat is one of the world’s leading developers of tracking systems and is the same high-tech provider we use to track all of our flights worldwide.
Between assessing Inmarsat’s premium, high-speed satellite tracking system and seamless global coverage, the decision to proceed with the GX Aviation technology was an easy one. Moreover, we considered the future development of Inmarsat’s technology to the evaluation process.
Will Qatar Airways be managing the installation and testing of the new technology onboard the 777s and A350s?
Along with Inmarsat, we will ensure the installation and testing requirements of the Super Wi-Fi on board our aircraft are met according to our requisite high standards. This new technology will be fitted and available on all our B777s and A350s — more than 100 airplanes in our worldwide fleet. Consequently, all of our aircraft operating to and from the U.S. will now have the Super Wi-Fi capabilities on board, allowing passengers to enjoy more options and high-speed broadband connectivity during their long-haul journey.
When you select a new in-flight connectivity technology such as GX, how do you establish the business model for operating it?
Qatar Airways’ connectivity business model is based on enhancing the passenger experience — we want to ensure our customers receive the finest conveniences through the latest technology service available. With the installation of this new advanced high-speed Wi-Fi, passengers across the globe, seated in any class, will be able to enjoy an hour of Wi-Fi for free and then pay $10 for the remainder of their flight.
What are the usage rates with the current in-flight internet technology, and do you expect that to continue to increase over the next two to three years?
As one of the fastest growing airlines and greatest pioneers in the industry, our commitment to expanding onboard, technological innovation and providing excellent service is paramount. Since the introduction of our current in-flight internet options, we’ve seen an extremely robust and continuous uptake from both our dedicated leisure and business travelers.
Presently, we are noticing an ever-growing demand for Wi-Fi capabilities on board across all our routes, and it is evident there will be an increase need for connectivity in the near future. As we roll out Super Wi-Fi on board our A350 and B777 fleets, our passengers will truly recognize the progressive distinction of Qatar Airways’ onboard, high-speed broadband connectivity, especially compared to other carriers from the MENA region.
Passengers on these aircraft will now have access to rich content without restriction, perfect for both work and relaxation during their journey with us. In fact, with the inception of our Qsuite, business travelers in particular will be able to maximize their "office above the clouds" with seamless continuity of this latest service in the comfort of their own customizable, private cabin.