Inmarsat: Potemkin Constellations

Sponsored Content. By Harry Shadbolt, Channel Director – Business and General Aviation, Inmarsat

Let’s take a trip back to 18th Century rural Russia. It may be more legendary than factual but indulge me as I draw parallels with BGA. At the time, in rural Russia, reality for most people was pretty grim, and that kind of hardship was deemed too unpleasant for inquisitive royals to witness.

In answer to this problem, whole towns were constructed out of painted wood and hastily moved into position, with fires lit behind fake windows, showing Catherine the Great the best face of her Empire whilst she toured it. The most famous architect of these undertakings was the Queen’s former lover, Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin. In fact, he was so prolific, that the term ‘Potemkin Village’ is now synonymous with something providing a positive façade, falsely covering the realities behind.

I can think of two modern day, watered down, examples of this; firstly, Billy Connolly’s famous quip that Queen Elizabeth II “thinks the world smells like fresh paint” and the other being the business plans of many satellite operators. These are often much like the prettily painted exteriors along the Danube, created in the hope that passing VIPs won’t look too closely.

The BizAv market has seen its share of Potemkin villages over the years, especially with regards to new satellite networks. The words “Global communications providing multi-megabit connectivity to the passenger device” are so often quoted by new arrivals to the business aviation marketplace, you’d think they hadn’t noticed the remains of their predecessors they had tiptoed around. Poor terminal strategies, unreliable funding and gaps in coverage are common childhood illnesses for new players to overcome without considering the current, well publicised headwinds we are facing in BGA.

For those operators to be able to offer a product in the market, the great hurdles they face are the requirement to continuously innovate and the ability to go the distance when adversity strikes. With Inmarsat and Satcom Direct, we feel that when facing up to those challenges, it is obvious that providing dated technology or Ersatz connectivity will not be considered innovation by anyone.

We make it our business to consider each new development extremely carefully, ensuring that it either complements existing services or entirely disrupts the market. And, without wishing to blow our own trumpet too loudly, we believe we have achieved this with Jet ConneX. In fact, we feel we have redefined what passenger connectivity looks like.

The way we see it, viability and vigour are essential ingredients when confronted with adversity. There are so many causes for concern nowadays, we believe that the longevity and sustainability of your satellite provider shouldn’t be one of them. It may be easy to promise a next great network, but as many have learned, delivering on that promise is incredibly difficult.

And that’s where the words of Potemkin’s contemporary, Ségur say so much, as he explained that despite Potemkin’s charm and talent, “nobody thought out a plan more swiftly, carried it out more slowly and abandoned it more easily”. It may feel a stretch to compare the plight of our competitors to that of Catherine the Great’s favourite nobleman but the comparison serves as a timeless reminder that there should never be a gap between promise and performance.