Image via Inmarsat

APEX Insight: Inmarsat is now the exclusive supplier of Ka-band satellite capacity to Panasonic. The two companies will also collaborate on the the development of a next-generation GX Aviation terminal.

Panasonic Avionics Corporation and Inmarsat announced a strategic collaboration today that will see the two companies marketing each others’ products to commercial airlines. The companies will also collaborate on the development of a next-generation GX Aviation terminal, as well as new connectivity-enabled services, data analytics and technology to improve overall end-to-end performance.

Inmarsat becomes the exclusive supplier of Ka-band satellite capacity to Panasonic under the 10-year deal, allowing Panasonic to sell the GX Aviation product, a global Ka-band network powered by Inmarsat’s Global Xpress constellation. The agreement sees GX “as the primary offering for new business.” This is a dramatic shift in the competitive market landscape, as the largest Ku-band provider shifts its focus to the Ka-band spectrum. Panasonic will continue to invest in its Ku-band network to support the more than 2200 aircraft online in the Ku-band space today, but the messaging from Panasonic is clear: Ka-band is the focus going forward.

“Aviation will be a significant individual growth driver of our overall business.”  – Rupert Pearce, Inmarsat CEO

Inmarsat’s CEO Rupert Pearce calls the partnership “clear evidence of Inmarsat delivering on its strategy” and that it “strengthens our conviction that, building upon the success of the global GX network, aviation will be a significant individual growth driver of our overall business.” With the Panasonic sales team leading its offers with the GX product, the potential for growth is significantly higher.

Panasonic will continue its investment in the NEXT solutions around data mining and improving the passenger experience. Rather than depending only on Panasonic’s home-grown connectivity platform, however, they will also be able to leverage the GX Aviation kit for those services. Hideo Nakano, CEO of Panasonic Avionics, describes to goal of delivering that seamless experience end-to-end, without worrying which satellite network the data travels on. “There’s nothing quite like watching your favorite sporting event on the seatback, shopping for products that are relevant to your life and interests, or using apps that personalize your journey,” Nakano said.

Inmarsat will also offer Panasonic’s portfolio of services and NEXT solutions to Inmarsat’s commercial aviation customers. This includes customer support services available from Panasonic’s Customer Performance Center and Technical Services teams.

“It is a better use of capital and resources, aligning in the right way to bring better options and services to customers.” – Philip Balaam, Inmarsat Aviation president

Ultimately, the two parties see it as a logical mating of strengths. Inmarsat Aviation president Philip Balaam notes that, while the two companies compete in a lot of areas, their core skill sets are complimentary. “It is a better use of capital and resources, aligning in the right way to bring better options and services to customers,” he said. “We think this will give that a boost.”

This may not be the consolidation oft discussed in in-flight connectivity circles, as the two companies remain independent and can still sell outside of the agreement, but it is close. Panasonic’s senior vice-president of Network Operations, Ian Dawkins, suggests that the deal will “expand our addressable market” and that “[this] is how we see the industry moving forward. This type of consolidation will help the industry.”