Intelsat To Bring OneWeb Internet To Regional American Airlines Jets

American Airlines has revealed plans to outfit nearly 500 regional jets starting in 2024 with their cutting-edge multi-orbit Wi-Fi connectivity provided by Intelsat.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Published: 2nd Dec 2023 03:25 GMT
Written by: Zac Aubert

American Airlines has revealed plans to outfit nearly 500 regional jets starting in 2024 with their cutting-edge multi-orbit Wi-Fi connectivity provided by Intelsat.

Intelsat's terminals are capable of connecting to both their geostationary fleet and low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites from Eutelsat OneWeb.

The key advantage of utilizing LEO satellites lies in their proximity to Earth, enabling lower latency and high-speed broadband services. Eutelsat OneWeb's LEO network, comprising over 600 satellites, operates in polar orbits, facilitating broader global coverage compared to geostationary satellites fixed along the equator.

Geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites, though larger and more powerful, can provide greater capacity to high-traffic areas such as airports. American Airlines, having already rolled out high-speed connectivity on 900 aircraft in its mainline fleet earlier in 2023, aims to extend similar capabilities to its regional fleet.

The Intelsat terminals are based on advanced antenna technology developed by Ball Aerospace and integrate designs and hardware from Stellar Blu Solutions.

Terminals are currently undergoing rigorous testing, and are expected to be deployed across American Airlines' regional fleet, which includes a mix of Bombardier CRJs and Embraer E-Jets.

Intelsat has secured similar deals earlier this year, extending its multi-orbit, electronically steered array antennas to other major airlines, namely Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, and Aerolineas Argentina.

American Airlines believes that Intelsat's multi-orbit antennas will enable its regional aircraft to match the fast Wi-Fi speeds currently available on its mainline aircraft. No specific speeds have been released but American Airlines has assured passengers of the ability to stream, browse, check email, and use virtual private networks (VPNs) while in flight.

SpaceX's Starlink LEO network poses a similar promise of high-speed services, positioning itself as a competitor in the aviation connectivity market.

While American Airlines partners with Intelsat, smaller airlines have recently inked contracts with SpaceX for similar solutions.

Intelsat is not without rivals in the multi-orbit connectivity domain, with companies like Hughes Network Systems gaining traction. Delta Air Lines, for instance, recently chose Hughes to connect 400 Boeing 717 and smaller regional jets, currently using Intelsat's air-to-ground connectivity service.

Hughes is set to provide antennas capable of connecting to its geostationary fleet, as well as future non-geostationary satellites operating in Ka-band, exemplified by Telesat Lightspeed and SES O3b mPower.

The race for superior in-flight connectivity continues, with airlines and satellite operators vying to provide seamless and high-speed internet services to passengers, reflecting the growing importance of connectivity in the aviation industry.

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