Panasonic Avionics has a road map that will lead to 250 Mbps inflight connectivity connection speeds from aircraft by 2020.
Part of the road map involves the launch of the Apstar-6D satellite later this year, which has been jointly designed by China’s APT Mobile Satcom Limited and Panasonic.
Panasonic has been using the term “XTS” (eXtreme Throughput Satellite) for some time, but no-one really knew what it meant – Google hasn’t helped much either.
But now we know that XTS involves the Newtec modem (the launch of which was covered in “Get Connected” in November 2016) and new high-speed satellites featuring narrower Ku-band spot beams.
Panasonic says the modem can facilitate the increasing bandwidth that will come on stream as XTS services are rolled out.
The Apstar 6D satellite will feature 90 narrow spot beams with “multiple gigahertz of new Ku-band capacity”, which will service high-density routes around China and East Asia including Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
These narrower spot beams provide higher power density and therefore higher throughput.
The Ku-band satellite will also provide HTS coverage over the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Australia and the Southern Oceans down to Antarctica.
The Asia region is vital to Panasonic’s business. Twenty one Asian carriers, representing more than 800 aircraft, have selected Panasonic for connectivity service, including Air China, All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Xiamen Airlines.
Caroline Reynolds, Solutions Strategy Manager, Panasonic Avionics, said: “We expect to see XTS services rolled out in quarter one 2020.”
But what of the Europe and the Americas?
“We are currently talking to suppliers and expect to make an announcement about two new XTS satellites later this year,” Reynolds said. “One for Europe and the important North Atlantic corridor and the other for the Americas.”
The net result will be that 99.9% of routes will have XTS coverage once the service is fully rolled out.
This may offer a lower cost per bit than is available with existing satellites.
The plan then is to try and increase the take-up rate from an average 6% of passengers. One way is to offer two services – a traditional pay by credit card approach, but also a roaming-type agreement whereby passengers just use their smartphone with no credit cards involved.
Panasonic says the average take-up rate is about 35% for this type of transaction. And with a 4G service from Panasonic company AeroMobile it is typically plenty quick enough.
But what of the strategic collaboration agreement Panasonic Avionics signed with Inmarsat at APEX in 2019?
Ian Dawkins, SVP of Network Operations, says Panasonic has been working hard behind the scenes and expects to make an announcement fairly soon.