Advanced Television

Airlines love LEO for broadband

September 9, 2023

By Chris Forrester

In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) is a key market for satellite operators, and the likes of Intelsat, SES and Viasat with geostationary craft in orbit are already supplying bandwidth to airlines as well as wholesale suppliers such as Panasonic and Thales. But this current situation is forecast to change dramatically over the next few years.

For example, Jason Sperry, head of business aviation at OneWeb (itself just days away from merging with Eutelsat) says that low Earth orbiting (LEO) satellite operators will increasingly dominate IFC, and that the airline community will “absolutely” reach the majority of traffic over LEO by 2030, and he estimated reaching 50 percent of the market.

Sperry was speaking at the Connected Aviation Summit 2023 in Denver.

Ronald van der Breggen, CCO at Rivada Space Networks, was even more bullish, saying that Rivada’s expectation put the traffic figure at more than 70 percent.

Dylan Browne, Amazon’s global head of Mobility Business Development, and with responsibilities at Amazon’s Project Kuiper, was equally forthright. He explained: “LEO is designed for [latency, capacity and consistency]. It’s a managed service out of the gate. Customers are going to vote with their feet. They want the service that has those attributes and characteristics.”

Telesat’s VP Phillippe Schleret told delegates that its Lightspeed fleet was very much designed and influenced by the prospects for IFC. “The beam-hopping technology (of LEO) allows us to bring very large amount of capacity, where it’s needed when it’s needed. I’m thinking in particular for the high concentration around airport hubs.”

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