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Intelsat Launches Inflight Internet Above the Arctic
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Intelsat Launches Inflight Internet Above the Arctic
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Feb 06, 2024

In a landmark development for global aviation connectivity, Intelsat has announced its success as the first inflight connectivity provider to offer high-speed internet service above the Arctic Circle. This achievement marks a significant milestone for airlines operating intercontinental flights across polar regions, where connectivity has historically been a challenge.

Dave Bijur, Intelsat's Senior Vice President of Commercial Aviation, highlighted the significance of this advancement, stating, "Airlines and their passengers have never had access to polar connectivity. Thanks to Intelsat's multi-orbit satellite service and ESA antenna, millions of international passengers flying on polar routes will now enjoy reliable, non-stop connectivity from gate to gate."

The innovation was demonstrated through test flights on Intelsat's CRJ-700 regional jet, equipped with an Electronically Steered Array (ESA) antenna. This technology is pivotal for ensuring stable connections across various satellite orbits and latitudes. The test flights conducted by Intelsat and Ball Aerospace engineers on December 17 and 18, 2023, showcased the robustness of the system under extreme conditions.

On the first leg, the aircraft journeyed from Seattle, Washington, to Anchorage, Alaska, leveraging Intelsat's geostationary (GEO) satellites to provide high-throughput service. This proved the efficacy of Intelsat's ESA technology in maintaining connectivity at all global airline hubs, including Anchorage, the northernmost city served by major airlines.

The subsequent flight from Anchorage to Utqiagvik, Alaska (formerly known as Barrow, AK), demonstrated the capabilities of OneWeb's low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. This flight underscored the potential for high-speed, low-latency internet service even in regions previously devoid of inflight connectivity, such as the challenging geographic areas of the Arctic Circle.

Pat Walsh, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Intelsat, elaborated on the tests' success, noting, "As the aircraft traveled due north from Anchorage into the Arctic Circle, we seamlessly connected to the OneWeb low-earth orbit constellation, delivering 150 megabits per second inflight and on the ground in Alaska. Near the polar region, Intelsat's GEO operations exceeded expectations, delivering a reliable, high-speed connection all the way to Anchorage."

Ben Griffin, VP Mobility at Eutelsat OneWeb, praised the achievement, calling it a "milestone moment" made possible by OneWeb's low Earth orbit constellation. He emphasized the significance of continuous connectivity across all routes and latitudes, heralding it as a game-changer for international airlines traversing the polar region.

This historic flight not only validates the 5C's of connectivity-coverage, capacity, connection, consistency, and community-that OneWeb and Intelsat can deliver but also paves the way for a new era of inflight service. Airlines operating over the Arctic Circle can now offer their passengers uninterrupted internet access, transforming the travel experience on polar routes.

This achievement by Intelsat demonstrates the company's commitment to innovation and its role in shaping the future of inflight connectivity. As the first to establish high-speed internet service in the Arctic Circle, Intelsat sets a new standard for global aviation, offering a glimpse into the future where the sky is truly no limit for connectivity.

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