Air New Zealand To Conduct Starlink Trial In Late 2024

Air New Zealand has announced plans to trial Starlink broadband on domestic flights; positioning itself in the intensifying competition to connect planes using Low Earth Orbit (LEO) services.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Published: 13th Dec 2023 02:47 GMT
Written by: Zac Aubert

Air New Zealand has announced plans to trial Starlink broadband on domestic flights; positioning itself in the intensifying competition to connect planes using Low Earth Orbit (LEO) services.

The airline revealed that SpaceX's LEO service, Starlink, is set to be installed on two of its planes in late 2024 for an initial trial period of four to six months. This includes deploying the service on a turboprop-powered ATR aircraft, marking a notable expansion in the application of LEO technology for Air New Zealand.

Should the trial run prove successful, Air New Zealand aims to extend the deployment of Starlink to other aircraft in its domestic fleet by 2025. As of October 31, the airline operates a total of 105 aircraft across its entire fleet.

Starlink's connectivity is expected to provide passengers with internet access comparable to that experienced at home, boasting a low latency of as little as 30 milliseconds, according to Air New Zealand.

The agreement with Air New Zealand represents a significant win for Starlink’s aviation business, particularly as competing LEO services.

Competitive Market

OneWeb (now owned by Eutelsat) are gearing up for commercial launch in the aviation market next year. SpaceX directly sells Starlink to airlines, OneWeb's satellite services are distributed through partnerships, with Intelsat being one of the notable collaborators.

On November 30, Intelsat announced a deal to equip nearly 500 regional jets operated by American Airlines with an antenna capable of connecting to both geostationary orbit (GEO) and OneWeb satellites in LEO. Similar agreements have been reached with Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, and Aerolineas Argentina.

Thanks to SpaceX's robust launch services, OneWeb has recently achieved global satellite coverage, operating over 600 satellites in LEO. In contrast, SpaceX's Starlink constellation comprises more than 5,000 satellites, the result of an aggressive launch campaign spanning nearly four years, utilizing Falcon 9 rockets built and operated in-house.

Despite Starlink's first-mover advantage, progress in securing partnerships with airlines has been gradual as the company navigates technical and regulatory challenges within the market. Several U.S.-based regional jet service providers, including JSX, Flexjet, and Aero, have already implemented Starlink services on their planes.

However, major airlines such as Hawaiian Airlines and airBaltic of Latvia, while having announced deals with Starlink, have deferred plans to offer services until 2024. Details regarding the deployment of Starlink connectivity by Qatar Airways and Japan’s Zipair remain limited.

The competition between OneWeb and Starlink is poised to intensify further, especially after Alaska Airlines' announcement on December 3 to acquire Hawaiian Airlines, adding a new dimension to the evolving landscape of in-flight connectivity.

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