NBAA-BACE 2019: OneWeb aims low to improve inflight connectivity on biz jets

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A communications startup that aims to deliver high quality, high-speed broadband connectivity to aircraft is working with suppliers to produce a retrofittable kit for business jets.

OneWeb is building, launching and plans to operate a constellation of communication satellites in partnership with Airbus, alongside the critical ground infrastructure and antennas around the world for the system. The Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites OneWeb will use are being launched at a rate of 30 per month from December this year and the company aims to launch its global, low latency inflight connectivity service by the end of 2021.

At the same time, OneWeb is working with aviation equipment suppliers and manufacturers to deliver an affordable retrofittable connectivity kit for business jets, which will be available when the service launches.

According to Dylan Browne, head of OneWeb’s business aviation, government and maritime sectors, this retrofittable kit will be suitable for all types of aircraft from large cabin VVIP airliners to light business jets.

Browne said, “Instead of commercial cellphone technology, which uses geostationary satellites 35,000km up, we are launching 600 low earth orbit satellites 1,200km up. The link from the aircraft goes straight up and because the satellites are up to 30 times closer there is a stronger signal and lower latency.

“It makes the use of cloud-based apps and storage a realistic activity during a flight.”

Browne added that the OneWeb system will make it possible to use all of the software applications used in an office in the sky. “Our vision for business aviation is fully customized, truly global, uninterrupted high-speed connectivity and we are building an eco-system for this sector,” he said.

Ed Slater, from the business aviation team at OneWeb said, “Another challenge is that it is not a comfortable conversation using a geo-stationary satellite, there is a delay. With a LEO satellite the connection is much better.

“It’s a scalable system and at the moment smaller jets have no similar solution. It’s at the right price point and can be retrofitted so business aviation can get the usability it wants.”

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