Rockwell Collins is no longer in the running to lead development, production and distribution of user terminals for Inmarsat’s future Ka-band satellite-supported Global Xpress aeronautical services for the aviation industry, as both parties have ceased negotiations, the APEX editor’s blog can exclusively reveal.
“Rockwell Collins and Inmarsat recently discontinued negotiations on an agreement to develop a joint global Ka broadband solution for the aviation industry,” confirms Rockwell Collins.
“Accordingly, Rockwell Collins is evaluating alternative broadband solutions as part of its continued commitment to provide comprehensive connectivity offerings.”
Rockwell Collins says it will not be granting interviews or elaborating further at this point.
In August 2011, Inmarsat announced that it had signed an agreement in principle with Rockwell Collins that would see Rockwell Collins provide “everything from the terminal to the antenna”, for Global Xpress. At that time, Inmarsat said it also expected Rockwell Collins to become one of its Global Xpress service partners, though it did not specifically assure that Rockwell Collins would be able to distribute to air transport.
A few months later, after announcing Gogo and SITA/Airbus joint venture OnAir as service distribution partners, Global Xpress managing director Leo Mondale said that in order to keep Rockwell Collins’ role as terminal provider “clean”, a decision was taken that Rockwell Collins would not be a service distributor to the commercial air transport market.
“It is a potential conflict of interest that needed to be dealt with so the simplest and easiest way to deal with it was that they won’t be competing in that space. There is still a huge opportunity for Rockwell Collins as a terminal provider and a more complete supplier into [business and government sectors],” said Mondale at the time.
Even so, the deal was mammoth in scale, and many inflight connectivity stakeholders submitted bids for subcontracting work with Rockwell Collins. Antenna maker Tecom Industries was among the bidders, Tecom VP, marketing and sales Raju Chandra revealed in a recent interview with the APEX editor’s blog.
Honeywell, which acquired EMS Technologies last year, is understood to be in the pole position for work with Inmarsat. However, a Honeywell spokesman declined comment, saying the firm does not comment on industry rumour or speculation.
Inmarsat, meanwhile, has stayed mum. Asked recently if Inmarsat’s negotiations with Rockwell Collins had broken down and if Inmarsat now intends to choose one or more alternate contractors for terminal development, an Inmarsat spokesman said: “Inmarsat does not wish to make a comment.”
Today’s news is breaking on the heels of a revelation from Panasonic Avionics that the inflight entertainment and connectivity giant has opted to bring production of its Ku-band antennas in-house, in a move that would ultimately see the company cease using EMS/Honeywell to provide the systems.
Panasonic offers inflight connectivity via Ku-band satellites – a solution that will compete with Global Xpress when the latter service is offered to airlines, business aircraft operators and government aircraft (pending launch of three Boeing-built Ka-band satellites).
EMS/Honeywell responded to Panasonic’s announcement, saying it remains a sub-contractor to Panasonic in the delivery of antennas, and that it is “still very much involved in the project with Panasonic”.
Note: Mary Kirby, editor of the APEX Media Platform – which includes this blog and the Airline Passenger Experience magazine - hopes to provide further clarity on this story early next week when she is scheduled to moderate an inflight connectivity panel at Satellite 2012 in Washington DC. The panellists are: Global Xpress managing director Leo Mondale; Honeywell director, marketing and product management satcom Kurt Weidemeyer; OnAir chief commercial officer Stephan Egli; Panasonic Avionics VP global communications services David Bruner and LiveTV VP of sales and marketing Mike Moeller.