Yahsat inflight connectivity tested at Dubai airshow

Stephan Keil, Etihad Airways Engineering (left) and Salim Al Alawi, Yahsat, aboard the Etihad Engineering Airbus A320 flying testbed.
Stephan Keil, Etihad Airways Engineering (left) and Salim Al Alawi, Yahsat, aboard the Etihad Engineering Airbus A320 flying testbed.

Yahsat and Etihad Airways Engineering are working on gaining supplemental type certificates (STC) for the inflight connectivity equipment installed on the latter’s Airbus A320 flying test bed.

Speaking at the Dubai Airshow, Amit Somani, Yahsat’s chief strategy officer, said: “We are in partnership with a UAE company on getting the equipment certified. We can then ensure the system is complete and ready to fly. We also need to work on getting our business model in place.”

Somani said Yahsat is also working on ensuring the inflight connectivity platform could be redeployed on Hughes’ or other operators’ satellites under a form of “roaming agreement”.

The system uses a Hughes’ dual Ku/Ka-band antenna and terminals, and is not thought to be compatible with Inmarsat GX (which is proprietary) or indeed ViaSat.

Hughes though, which manufactures the system’s antenna, has a number of Ka-band satellite platforms, including the Hughes EchoStar XVII and EchoStar XIX over the Americas.

Yahsat’s own speed test

In March 2017 Thales announced a number of agreements with SES and Hughes Network Systems to enhance the delivery of its FlytLIVE Ka-band inflight connectivity solution. Interestingly a group of senior staff from Thales Inflyt Experience were seen testing the Yahsat system aboard the flying test bed in Dubai.

Also in March 2017, Hughes Network Systems unveiled its Jupiter aero system, capable of supporting speeds in excess of 400 Mbps and operating on both Ka and Ku-band frequencies. A new satellite, specifically designed for the needs of Thales FlytLIVE and manufactured by Thales Alenia Space, is also due to be launched in 2020.

One of Get Connected's own speed tests.
One of Get Connected’s own speed tests.

These platforms and others could well form the backbone for a regional/global Ka-band Yahsat/Thales solution.

Yahsat CEO Masood Mahmood said that it was talking to a number of satellite and other providers about its options for any future worldwide capacity.

“Get Connected’s” Steve Nichols managed to test the system on day one of the show. Amit Somani said the system could accommodate up to 200 passengers, although only 19 users were logged on during the session.

During the test, while browsing the web and viewing videos, the experience was snappy and reliable. An iPad speed test app recorded download speeds of around 25Mbps, with Yahsat showing a peak of 56.3Mbps.

While inflight connectivity providers frown upon speed test apps, they at least give you an idea of throughput, albeit a snapshot.

While it is still early days for the Yahsat/Etihad system, it shows early promise as a competitor to existing Ka and Ku-band solutions, especially as Yahsat already operates it own satellites and is based in a region with airlines actively looking for inflight connectivity.

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