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How LEO Satellite Connectivity Can Enhance the Passenger Experience in Business Aircraft

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How LEO Can Enhance Connectivity in Business Aircraft

Getting an aircraft traveling 600 miles an hour at 35,000 feet above the Earth to connect to a satellite that's moving 15,000 miles per hour at 750 miles above the Earth, is no trivial task! But innovators from Gogo, Hughes and OneWeb are making it happen. One sector in particular that will benefit is business aviation––the smaller aircraft, from turbo prop planes to super light jets, which have been without the type of broadband service common on commercial aircraft.

Recently, Aviation International News (AIN) hosted a webinar that brought executives from the three companies together to discuss the latest technological advancement for broadband connectivity in aviation―Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. I had the privilege of joining that panel, along with Jim McDougall, VP of product management for Gogo Business Aviation; Jason Sperry, Head of Business Aviation at OneWeb; and Jeremy Tyler, VP Engineering at Gogo. During our discussion, we explored how LEO connectivity, coupled with small electronically steered array (ESA) antennas, delivers low latency, high-speed broadband for virtually any business aircraft flying anywhere in the world.

Here are some highlights from our discussion:

  • Passengers expect a living room experience. When it comes to the passenger experience, reliable in-flight Wi-Fi is a necessity – for business travelers as much as leisure passengers. Being able to send and receive email is not enough; passengers want to place video calls, use VPNs and stream movies. They expect a snappy living room experience with high speeds and plenty of bandwidth.
  • Smaller aircraft have been limited when it comes to offering in-flight broadband. Until now, broadband satellite solutions for aviation involved tail-mounted parabolic dish antennas. That required planes to be large enough to support the heft of that equipment on the tail, with weight being a serious concern for proper aerodynamics. Smaller to midsized aircraft simply couldn’t accommodate such equipment. And yet, passengers on those planes have the same appetite for broadband in the skies as everyone else.
  • LEO offers a snappy user experience worldwide. OneWeb’s LEO constellation will provide true global coverage with extremely low round trip latency in-flight. OneWeb’s full constellation of 588 LEO satellites will be completed in 2023, at which time global service will be available. What’s more, LEO constellations will benefit from faster technology refreshes because they have short lifespans, enabling significant technology improvements with each generation.
  • New antennas are ready today. The ESA antenna from Hughes―the first of its kind technology―unlocks the potential of LEO service for in-flight Wi-Fi. Our beam forming algorithms drive a persistent low latency connection, with purpose-built antenna chips facilitating ultra-low power consumption. Other solutions require a lot more power, which requires cumbersome cooling solutions. With no moving parts, the antenna can go from satellite to satellite within the constellation in a fraction of a second, imperceptible to the user. Because our ESA antenna is small and lightweight and features an integrated modem, it is also easy to install, minimizing downtime for the aircraft.
  • A solution built for business aviation. Typically, in-flight connectivity solutions are developed for the commercial market and then adapted for business aviation. This one is different. Gogo, in partnership with Hughes and OneWeb, has developed a broadband solution that’s built from the ground up for business aviation. The solution integrates with Gogo’s AVANCE system―a modular system that makes it easy to add new capabilities and services.

For those in business aviation, LEO satellites coupled with these technological advances and services promise to enhance connectivity and greatly improve the passenger experience.

For more about the benefits of LEO in-flight connectivity solutions for business aviation, watch the full webinar.