A JetSuiteX business jet. Photo: JetSuiteX

SmartSky Networks has named JetSuiteX as the official launch customer of its next-generation air to ground in-flight connectivity network. JetSuiteX CEO Alex Wilcox confirmed their plans to begin passenger carrying flights with SmartSky onboard a fleet of Embraer 135s later this year during his keynote speech at the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) Tech 2019 conference in Los Angeles, California this week. Wilcox evaluated the in-flight connectivity provider’s network during a test flight in a Cessna Citation Excel in early January, according to coverage of his speech published by the media arm of APEX. “The damn thing works,” Wilcox said of the SmartSky technology. SmartSky describes its network as an open connectivity ecosystem with 60 MHz of unlicensed spectrum enabled by air to ground cell towers deployed throughout the U.S. Media and business jet operator demonstration flights conducted by SmartSky between 2016 and 2018 showed how the network has been proven capable of supporting streaming on up to 10 to 12 mobile devices simultaneously.

SmartSky’s 4G LTE aircraft system. Photo: SmartSky

2018 also featured several achievements in SmartSky’s progress toward the official launch of its network as well. The FAA awarded the first supplemental type certification to SmartSky and parts manufacturing approval to their partners Avidyne and AeroAntenna. The company also introduced a version of its system for aircraft weighing less than 19,000 pounds max takeoff weight. Pentastar Aviation completed the first aircraft installation of SmartSky’s system on an undisclosed customer’s aircraft in October 2018. The system includes duplex blade antennas, cabin wireless access point and an onboard radio. Now, JetSuiteX has become the launch customer for the network, which currently provides coverage on up to 90 percent of business aviation routes. Full U.S. coverage for the network is expected by the end of 2019. “Not only does this underscore our commitment to providing the most innovative air travel solution in the industry, it allows our customers to empty their inbox or share as many JetsuiteX selfies as they wish while still in the air,” Wilcox said.