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Space for growth

Airline passengers’ hunger for bandwidth has led to an explosion in demand for satellite space, as Kerry Reals discovers

Most of the major inflight connectivity providers signing deals for extra high throughput satellite (HTS) capacity or planning new service launches later this year.

With so many options available to airlines, whether it be Ka- or Ku-band, HTS or, further down the line, low and medium earth orbit (LEO/MEO) satellites – and amid such strong competition for their business among rival service providers – it is little wonder that attempts are under way to minimise confusion.

“I think [the satellite-based, inflight connectivity market] has been very confusing for a long time. We’re working to simplify the message and we’re trying to refocus the conversation to make sure it meets the needs of airlines and passengers,” says Blane Boynton, Vice President of Product and Network Solutions at Gogo.

“Ground-like connectivity on every flight: That is our mantra. We’re trying to simplify our offerings because it has been very technical and very confusing to passengers and airlines.”

By taking the emphasis away from ‘Ku versus Ka’, which Boynton insists ‘doesn’t matter’, Gogo has been “really trying to refocus passengers and airlines around differentiation that matters”.

Gogo, which provides both air-to-ground connectivity to carriers in North America and a 2Ku satellite-based service to international customers, is in the process of adding HTS capacity to its 2Ku product to make it faster and more efficient. HTS works by using multiple spot beams to increase the throughput of the satellite, meaning it can transmit more data in a more targeted way.

“With smaller beams you serve fewer customers within each beam, which means more bandwidth to go around, which results in faster speeds,” explains Gogo.

“The company has already started using HTS capacity over the North Atlantic and will do the same over Europe as additional high throughput satellites come online,” says Boynton.

SES Networks said in February that more than 200 aircraft equipped with Gogo’s 2Ku service are now benefiting from the new HTS capacity on its SES-15 satellite. The satellite entered service in January 2018 and is SES’s first hybrid satellite providing Ku-band wide beams and Ku-band spot beam capacity over North America, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

According to the satellite company, Gogo has signed capacity agreements across 11 SES satellites around the world. >>


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