New electronically steered array (ESA) antenna is the only product in the market capable of operations with LEO and GEO satellite systems
London, UK, 28 February 2023 - OneWeb, the low Earth orbit satellite communications company, and distribution partner Intelsat, operator of one of the world’s largest integrated satellite and terrestrial networks and leading provider of inflight connectivity (IFC), today announced the successful completion of inflight testing of a hybrid LEO/GEO inflight connectivity solution.
The tests on Intelsat’s Bombardier CRJ-700 regional jet outfitted with the new electronically steered array (ESA) antenna were the first ever in which both LEO and GEO satellite connectivity were seamlessly switched inflight. Intelsat’s ESA, built in conjunction with Stellar Blu and OneWeb, is the only commercially available product in the aviation industry that has been proven to operate on both OneWeb’s low Earth orbit satellites and geostationary satellites.
The three weeks of testing, witnessed by executives from a number of American and international airlines achieved peak inflight download speeds exceeding 275Mbps, facilitating applications such as live virtual meetings, media streaming – and with the enhanced low latency of the OneWeb network, cloud computing without interruption.
By using the Intelsat and OneWeb satellite networks together, airlines can leverage the benefits of LEO’s low latency along with the redundancy GEO provides to address network hotspots that LEO networks on their own cannot address. Whether aircraft are flying polar regions or over the most populated cities in the world, the ESA antenna will offer seamless gate-to-gate coverage from take-off to touchdown.
“The best way to provide airlines and passengers with faster, more consistent and truly global broadband service is with a variety technologies and partnerships. These tests have demonstrated the power of leveraging multi-orbit technologies” says Greg Mashlan, Head of Commercial Aviation at OneWeb. “We’re witnessing the dawn of a new era for mobile connectivity where new technologies as well as new flexible thinking and collaboration will finally meet the needs of today’s digital airline and digital passenger.”
Alaska Airlines recently announced plans to use Intelsat’s ESA terminal and IFC services aboard its fleet of Embraer regional jet fleet. Intelsat has supplemental type certificate programmes underway for a wide range of aircraft and expects to begin delivering and installing shipsets in early 2024.
OneWeb is now just two launches from completing the constellation of satellites needed to deliver truly global coverage. Both these launches are scheduled to take place in March, with aviation services coming online in early 2024.