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Inmarsat, GDC Advanced Technology to offer inflight broadband to Saudia

SAUDIA, the national flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, today announced that its upcoming fleet of 35 Airbus A321neo and Airbus A321XLR aircraft will offer the award-winning GX Aviation high-speed inflight broadband solution by Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications. The aircraft will connect to GX Aviation using an ultra-high performance terminal by GDC Advanced Technology, an industry leader in engineering and technical services, modifications and electronic systems.

As the first major inflight connectivity agreement in the Middle East since the Covid-19 pandemic began, SAUDIA will be GX Aviation’s launch customer in Saudi Arabia. In addition, it has become the first airline in the Middle East to select Inmarsat’s revolutionary new OneFi customer experience platform and the first in the world to select GX Aviation’s next-generation terminal, developed with GDC Advanced Technology. The terminal provides enhanced customer flexibility and is future proofed to meet the demands of planned and new constellations.

The selection enables SAUDIA to provide a world-class digital experience for passengers onboard 20 Airbus A321neo and 15 Airbus A321XLR. The airline’s first installation of GX Aviation is expected in late 2022 and once the service is live, passengers will be able to seamlessly browse the internet, stream videos, check social media, shop online and more during flights using their own personal devices.

Inmarsat’s OneFi platform will serve as a catalyst for SAUDIA to monetise its inflight connectivity by bringing a host of onboard services together within a single portal interface. The solution, which launched two months ago in September 2021, allows passengers to order food, beverages and duty free items, enjoy e-books, newspapers and magazines, receive the latest information for their flight and destination, and sign into SAUDIA’s AlFursan frequent flyer programme, all in real-time from the comfort of their seat.

SAUDIA’s selection of GX Aviation and OneFi comes at a critical time for the aviation industry, with the global pandemic having accelerated passenger demand for digital inflight experiences. Inmarsat’s 2021 Passenger Confidence Tracker, the largest and most comprehensive global survey of its kind since the pandemic began, found that digital solutions that keep passengers connected and minimise their contact with cabin crew and fellow passengers can go a long way in boosting confidence. In addition, out of the 10,000 respondents, 41% believed inflight Wi-Fi had further increased in importance after the pandemic.

Captain Ibrahim S. Koshy, CEO of SAUDIA, said: “As the national flag carrier, SAUDIA is constantly innovating to support our fleet’s growth plans and was recently named the World’s Most Improved Airline of 2021 by Skytrax, the second time we have been awarded this honour in recent years. We understand the growing importance of high-speed inflight broadband, providing a seamless experience for guests to remain connected and entertained while flying with us. Inmarsat’s GX Aviation and OneFi solutions, together with GDC Advanced Technology’s next-generation terminal, will ensure our passengers have access to world-class connectivity on all flights operated by our Airbus A321neo and A321XLR aircraft.”

Rajeev Suri, CEO of Inmarsat, said: “GX Aviation has established itself as the gold standard for inflight connectivity and we are delighted to welcome SAUDIA as our latest customer. This agreement truly reinforces the airline as a global aviation pioneer and innovator, not only because it’s the first airline in Saudi Arabia to offer advanced next-generation inflight broadband, but also the first to select both Inmarsat’s OneFi platform and GDC Advanced Technology’s new aircraft terminal. We look forward to rolling out these solutions with SAUDIA, initially on its Airbus A321neo and A321XLR aircraft, so that its passengers can benefit from uninterrupted high-speed Wi-Fi on flights.”

GDC Advanced Technology will produce and install GX Aviation’s next-generation terminal, with a robust flat panel antenna developed by Thinkom. Following a range of technology assessments and test flights, the powerful new terminal has demonstrated its ability to deliver the highest levels of inflight connectivity consistently, even over the world’s busiest airspaces.

Tracy Trent, President of GDC Advanced Technology, said: “More than being just an enabler for the digital transformation of the airline experience, providing a touchless onboard experience will be the key to increasing passenger confidence as regional and global air travel recovers from the global Covid-19 pandemic. GX Aviation is well-positioned to exploit our new lightweight, low drag, ultra-high performance terminal, and will optimise its capabilities even further, providing SAUDIA with the perfect blueprint for world-class inflight broadband that meets passenger expectations for generations to come.”

The GDC Advanced Technology terminal’s performance is being boosted further by continued enhancements to Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) satellite network. GX5, Inmarsat’s most advanced satellite to date, is the latest in the network to enter commercial service. It will provide SAUDIA with significant layered capacity and network redundancy over the Middle East and Europe, which forms one of the world’s busiest travel corridors. Inmarsat’s technology roadmap will see seven further satellite launches by 2024, starting with first satellite in the Inmarsat-6 fleet (I-6 F1), the largest, most sophisticated commercial communications satellite ever built, which is scheduled to launch on 21 December 2021. This builds on the launch of new possibilities through ELERA in L-band that, together with Global Xpress and forthcoming low earth orbit and terrestrial networks, will deliver Inmarsat ORCHESTRA. BCS Bureau

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