For the first time, the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX), International Flight Services Association (IFSA), and Future Travel Experience brought more than 3000 global aviation leaders together under the same roof for Global EXPO 2023. As a long-time member of APEX, the Hughes team was eager to meet fellow members from across a broad spectrum of the industry to discuss top of mind issues––namely, the power and potential of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite for in-flight connectivity (IFC). Here are three takeaways from our many discussions:
- All airlines want LEO now! The entire industry is focused on using LEO satellite connectivity to deliver high speed, low-latency connectivity to in-flight passengers––especially those on long-haul, transoceanic aircraft. As OneWeb’s technology partner of choice, Hughes is equally excited to offer a robust suite of LEO solutions to enable airlines and airline service providers to deliver the first-class Wi-Fi experiences that passengers demand.
- Airlines are seeking future proof solutions, like the lightweight ESA. Airlines want solutions that are unlikely to become obsolete or fail in the future. Consequently, they are keen to learn more about technologies, like Hughes lightweight, small and efficient electronically steerable antenna (ESA) that we demonstrated at the AIX Expo earlier this year. As a lightweight terminal with no moving parts and low power consumption, the Hughes ESA is easy to install, requires little to no maintenance and is optimized for aeronautical implementations. The terminal enables reliable high-performance broadband connectivity with data rates up to 195 Mbps to and 32 Mbps from the aircraft and works with or without an existing IFC solution.
- Even more IFC use cases are emerging. While LEO is garnering significant attention, other transport options like Geostationary (GEO) and hybrid GEO+LEO satellite service are also top of mind. Each transport offers varying coverage areas, speeds and performance levels. The key for airlines is to align with providers, like Hughes, that have the technical and engineering prowess to customize deployments and leverage multi-transport options to best meet business needs and satisfy passenger expectations. Hughes is uniquely positioned not only as a vertically integrated satellite operator, but also a designer and manufacturer of ESA technology and ground segment solutions that enable seamless connectivity in the air.
For those attending APEX, perhaps the greatest takeaway was learning that fast, reliable in-flight connectivity has arrived––and it can be deployed on commercial and business aircraft, and for domestic or international flights over the ocean or those flying from one polar region to another.