Hughes is gearing up to support Thales in the launch of its FlytLive regional Ka-band inflight connectivity solution for North America.
David Shiff, VP of Enterprise Sales for Hughes, said: “Our infrastructure to support FlytLive is fully built and we have test flights up and running. We are ready for the system to launch.”
At a recent press conference at AIX Hamburg, Dominique Giannoni, CEO Thales InFlyt Experience, said that its regional Ka-band inflight connectivity solution for North America was at the final stage of testing and will be going live with an unnamed airline in the USA in 2018, probably in or just before Q3.
FlytLive will be delivered via the EchoStar XVII and EchoStar XIX HTS satellites, owned by Hughes’ parent company, combined with the AMC-15 and AMC-16 satellites from SES.
The backbone that will support FlytLive is Hughes’ Jupiter aeronautical system – an integrated system of airborne and ground equipment and software that incorporates enhanced beam switching, adaptive coding and modulation and advanced Doppler correction.
It enables rapid switching from satellite to satellite as well as from spot beam to spot beam without interruption and is both Ku and Ka-band compatible.
Shiff said the Jupiter infrastructure for FlytLive was extensive and engineered to support the growing passenger demand for high bandwidth and high data throughput.
“Traffic modelling for inflight connectivity capacity is complex,” Shiff said. “You have to be able to cope with very high volumes of usage in the vicinity of major airport hubs, but you also have to be able to cost-effectively serve portions of the air routes that are much less densely loaded as well,” he said.
Shiff said the Jupiter platform grew out of the need to support millions of ground-based users in the US with its satellite-based HughesNet system.
“As our consumer business grew, the demand for higher speeds, more capacity and lower costs grew with it,” Shiff said. “Jupiter technology has evolved through several evolutions to become a platform that today supports more than one million subscribers.”
But Hughes’ inflight connectivity support goes back a long way. Shiff said Hughes’ HX platform, which was originally developed to support a wide range of applications, including broadband IP services, from high-speed Internet access, as well as VoIP and video was adopted by Row 44 for Southwest Airlines back in 2009.
Jump to March 2017 and Hughes Network Systems unveiled its Jupiter-based Aero system, which is capable of supporting speeds in excess of 400 Mbps and operates on both Ka- and Ku-band frequencies.
That same month Global Eagle Entertainment announced Jupiter was being deployed to support continued expansion of its airline connectivity customers.
But Hughes’ aspirations spread much further than the US.
“Hughes has been a long-term partner with the UAE’s Yahsat, before it was ever working on inflight connectivity,” Shiff said.
Hughes has provided the Jupiter System and network operations services for Yahsat’s expansion of Ka-band satellite coverage to 18 African countries.
Gilat and Hughes also unveiled a new high-performance dual Ka/Ku-band aero antenna on the first day of the Satellite 2017 show.
The antenna supports both Ka- and Ku-band on a single antenna platform while giving lower weight and drag characteristics compared with the use of two separate antennas.
The dual-band capability enables continuous broadband connectivity for commercial aircraft travelling air routes that require a combination of Ku- and Ka-band coverage to serve a full air route.
The antenna was fitted to an Etihad Airbus A320 to demonstrate Yahsat’s Ka-band inflight connectivity solution at the 2017 Dubai Airshow.
“I think in the future we will see aircraft with the capability to access geostationary as well as low-earth and mid-earth orbiting (LEO and MEO) satellites as well,” Shiff said.
“The antenna technology needed for LEO and MEO satellites, such as phased arrays and technologies to build a small efficient flat panel antenna, are not quite there yet, but we believe they are not far away.
“When aeronautical MEO and LEO connectivity becomes practical it will enable improved coverage and potentially improved economics for flight routes that are either difficult or costly to serve using only today’s geostationary assets.
Hughes is a major system supplier to OneWeb. In November 2017 it signed a contract for $190M with OneWeb for the production of a ground network system, supporting OneWeb’s constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites.
Joint development of the ground network system began approximately two years ago.
“It is a very advanced and powerful system and will be an ideal adjunct to the current geosynchronous satellites to create a hybrid inflight connectivity solution to swerve the in-flight connectivity needs we expect to see in the 2021 and beyond time frame” he concluded.