Global Eagle, Telesat Working to Bring New Connectivity to Aviation

By Adrienne Harebottle | June 11, 2018
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Global Eagle and Telesat prime LEO for maritime and aviation to bridge mobility gaps. Photo courtesy of Telesat

In mid-May, news surfaced that in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) provider Global Eagle would facilitate Telesat in designing and testing its low-Earth orbit (LEO) constellation. This tie-up, which effectively made Global Eagle the first IFEC player to announce a collaboration with Telesat, followed a comprehensive review of planned non-geostationary-orbit (NGSO) constellations. Upon determining that LEO’s global connections, including polar region coverage and the traversing air routes, would afford a better passenger experience owing to the satellites’ very low latency compared to geostationary-Earth orbit (GEO), the two companies agreed to use Telesat’s recently launched Phase 1 LEO demonstration satellite to test connectivity for aviation and maritime users.

The Canada-based operator is designing a constellation of 117 satellites for broadband connectivity and launched Phase 1 LEO in January on an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. Significantly for Global Eagle, this collaboration includes user terminal development, and the in-flight and at-sea testing of LEO-compatible hardware. Global Eagle will test its newly developed mechanically steered Ka-band antenna, which is compatible with current installation architecture and supplemental type certificates. However, the company notes that aviation antennas will evolve over the next five years and plans Ka, Ku and next-generation antennas in service. Because the challenge associated with LEO networks lies in the inter-satellite links with the ground segment, Global Eagle having influence over the development of LEO systems’ ground segment architecture may prove crucial.

“In the next five years, we will be working diligently on building out the product and service offerings to take full advantage of the unique performance and capability that LEO constellations offer to our IFC, maritime and land customers,” said Glenn Latta, COO of connectivity for Global Eagle. “At the tail end of that five-year period, we expect to be delivering our customers a hybrid network, mixing GEO and LEO constellations with Global Eagle’s leading network management expertise to offer our customers right path, right performance services based on end-user need.”

Using Phase 1 LEO, the parties will focus on airline and large cruise ship applications in polar and high-latitude regions, and passenger use-cases globally that leverage sub-50 millisecond latency for data-intensive applications. Global Eagle is an existing customer of Telesat GEO satellites, providing high-performing wireless broadband to its airline and cruise passengers. Due to Telesat’s open architecture, Global Eagle’s customers are provided an easy upgrade path to add LEO capacity to existing GEO systems. This means that Telesat LEO would seamlessly fill the gaps in the coverage map of Ka-band satellites.

Read the full article at sister publication Via Satellite. It has been edited.

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