Intelsat Completes Multi-Orbit Inflight Wi-Fi Tests

Integrated satellite and terrestrial networks operator and in-flight connectivity provider Intelsat has announced the successful completion of in-flight testing of its new electronically steered array (ESA) antenna.

The antenna is available to airlines around the world and the company says it is the only commercially available antenna for the aviation industry that can operate between low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites and geostationary satellites (GEO).

Ball, Stellar Blu Solutions, Intelsat and OneWeb engineers have been validating antenna and network performance and Intelsat successfully demonstrated the new system to airlines in early 2023 on board the company’s Bombardier CRJ-700 regional jet, with customers being able to participate in live virtual meetings, stream media and stay connected without interruptions.

By using the Intelsat and OneWeb satellite networks together, Intelsat says it can offer 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.

The ESA antenna will offer seamless coverage from take-off to touchdown, weighs just 90 pounds and has no moving parts. It is also just 3.5 inches tall on the top of the aircraft and the terminal’s low profile has the lowest drag of any product Intelsat has ever offered, which can reduce CO2 emissions for airlines.

Jeff Sare, president of Intelsat Commercial Aviation commented: “After installing the system in December, we’ve been hard at work perfecting this new technology and have taken some of the world’s leading airlines for test flights. An antenna without moving parts, that is much smaller than its predecessors, enables airlines to compete in the marketplace, delight their guests and have confidence that Intelsat’s multi-orbit antenna will provide the best performing in-flight connectivity experience in the market.”

Intelsat’s supplemental type certificate programme is underway for a wide range of aircraft and the company expects to begin delivering and installing shipsets in early 2024. Alaska Airlines has announced plans to use Intelsat’s ESA terminal and in-flight connectivity services on board its Embraer regional jet fleet.

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