Intelsat and OneWeb plan to hook up more flights with orbital connectivity

Tech

An agreement between satellite operators Intelsat and OneWeb will see the firms expand low Earth orbit connectivity for aviation.

OneWeb and Intelsat have signed a global distribution partnership agreement to offer airlines a ‘seamless inflight connectivity’ solution, which would see OneWeb’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite services combined with Intelsat’s existing geo-stationary (GEO) satellite service offered to airlines worldwide.

This is described as a ‘multi-orbit solution for the aviation community’, the idea being both types of satellite work together to keep the planes in the sky hooked up, which is supposed to result in reduced gaps in service even at busy hubs, across oceans and over polar routes. The companies expect the multi-orbit solution to be in service by 2024.

“This level of connectivity will enable airlines to maximise brand affiliation with passengers through all their onboard services – delivering a truly connected end-to-end passenger journey,” said Jeff Sare, Intelsat’s President, Commercial Aviation. “The hybrid service offering further allows the global airline community to plan their suite of next-generation onboard services with confidence – not only ensuring a future-proofed passenger inflight connectivity experience, but also the implementation of a connected airline digitalisation strategy.”

Ben Griffin, OneWeb’s Vice President, Mobility Services added: “This is a watershed moment for the inflight connectivity market, and we’re excited to work together with Intelsat to bring our multi-orbit solution to commercial aviation. We’re committed to delivering the most differentiated and innovative solution for airlines,” said Ben Griffin, OneWeb Vice President, Mobility Services. “We are proving that, through the power of partnership, a superior suite of multi-orbit capabilities can be offered to better serve the growing connectivity needs of the commercial aviation industry, delivering the highest value coupled with the lowest risk.”

Meanwhile, it was announced late last month that OneWeb is planning to merge with fellow satellite firm Eutelsat – though really Eutelsat is buying OneWeb excluding the ‘Special Share’ the UK Government will hold on to. The idea is Eutelsat will be bringing its 36-strong fleet of GEO satellites to the table of the new entity, which will complement OneWeb’s constellation of 648 Low Earth Orbit satellites, 428 of which are currently in orbit. Presumably this will give it the capability to do the sort of combined operations like the one described here with Intelsat.

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