Panasonic Avionics and Astronics are well down the road of providing a new Ku-band inflight internet and TV connectivity solution to VVIP and head of state customers.
The companies announced in November 2015 that they were partnering on a new solution for high-end customers.
The partnership combines Astronics’ tail-mounted satcom solutions with Panasonic’s Global Communications Services to offer high-speed, dedicated broadband data internet services; four channels of global television services and regional DBS-TV programming, all from a single antenna.
But why is Panasonic, which is better known for its commercial inflight connectivity offering, getting into business aviation now?
Dave Bruner, Panasonic Avionic’s Vice President of Panasonic’s Global Communications Services, said: “We wanted to get into this market for some time, but didn’t want to be another ‘me too’ supplier.
“We wanted something that would distinguish us from the rest of the market and the launch of high throughput (HTS) Ku-band satellites is letting that happen.”
Bruner says that before HTS they couldn’t get the performance they wanted from a 10.5-11 inch tail-mounted parabolic satellite antenna. But the higher power density of HTS now gives them the bandwidth they need.
“The VVIP and HOS market is very demanding and we didn’t want to launch until we knew we had products that could satisfy that demand,” Bruner said.
Those products are Astronics’ FliteStream T-210 and T-220 Ku-band antennas
Both have been developed to be form fit with existing tail-mount designs, but offer a step change in performance.
Bruner said that the antennas’ enhanced design and 29cm aperture means it can offer Ku-band data packages with a 1.5, 2.5 or 4Mbps priority service over 86% of the globe by the end of 2016, thanks to HTS. He said this will extend even further once the Pacific region comes online with HTS.
“But it gets better,” said Bruner. “The T-220 can operate on two frequencies at once, so one channel can be used for internet and the other for TV.
“These are capabilities that just haven’t existed before.”
Astronics is currently working on the first STCs for the antenna on the Gulfstream GIV and GV families, including the G450 and G550. The first STC should be complete by September, with the first retrofits being completed this summer.
The company will then switch its focus to the Bombardier Challenger and Globals.
The companies say they expect the first aircraft to enter service with the system by mid 2017.
“There has been a lot of interest in the system,” said Bruner, ”from all over the world – everyone wants inflight TV, and we can deliver.”