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777-300ER through Inmarsat partner SITAONAIR, upgrading the
aircraft from the previous Inmarsat SwiftBroadband service. SITAON-
AIR is also upgrading Philippine Airlines’ 777 fleet from SwiftBroad-
band to GX as well as line-fitting its new Airbus A350s and A321s.
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand, which has selected GX for its long-
haul and short-haul fleets, is testing the service on one 7 77-300 and
will assess passenger reaction before rolling it out further starting
with the 777 fleet.
In late September, AirAsia Group committed to GX for more than
120 Airbus aircraft under which all existing and future A320s and
A330s operated by the group will be equipped for broadband con-
nectivity. The first installation and launch of commercial services
are scheduled for the first half of 2018.
Inmarsat is ready to meet the growing demand for broadband
connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region, says Rachel Donald, director
of airline market development for Asia-Pacific. “Because Inmarsat
owns and operates its own network, it has the ability to invest in
further satellites to meet anticipated growth in demand, and position
these where demand is greatest,” Donald explains.
Inmarsat’s Ka-band GX constellation comprises three satellites that
deliver a “globally-consistent, reliable coverage so the customer expe-
rience is the same, wherever they are in the world”, says Donald. The
Pacific Ocean Region (POR) GX satellite, positioned at 178 degrees
East, covers the Asia-Pacific region. A fourth satellite was launched
in May to augment capacity across high-demand regions. In June,
Inmarsat awarded a contract to Thales Alenia Space to construct a
fifth GX satellite, which will support the rapid adoption by airlines of
GX in both Europe and the Europe-Asia traffic corridor, says Inmarsat.
“ This reflects Inmarsat’s strategy of adding capacity to its already
established, unique, high-speed global broadband network in areas
of high customer demand and against new customer commitments,”
says Donald. The new satellite — a Very High Throughput Satellite
(V-HTS) — is scheduled for launch in 2019 and will provide additional
capacity across the Middle East, Europe and the Indian sub-continent.
GX will provide the international bandwidth capacity needed to
meet existing and near-term demand from airlines worldwide, says
Donald. “It also provides a global coverage underlay that will be
built upon to meet future demand in areas where it is most needed,”
Planning is well under way for Inmarsat’s sixth-generation satellite
system. Airbus Defence and Space has been awarded a contract to
build the first two satellites in the Inmarsat-6 fleet, with the first sat-
ellite contracted for launch in 2020 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Orbital locations have yet to be announced, but the dual-payload
I-6s, supporting L-band and Ka-band services, will bring a new
generation of capabilities and add further depth to GX, providing
greater coverage in regions of greatest demand, says Inmarsat.
Fellow connectivity IFC provider ViaSat serves the Asia-Pacific
market through a combination of high-capacity Ka-band and Ku-band
satellites, working with partners in the region to meet customer needs,
according to Peter Girvan, vice president for Asia-Pacific. ViaSat’s only
commercial airline customer in the region to date is Qantas, but it also
serves government and business aviation customers with its Ku-band
services. For the Qantas programme, it has partnered with Australia’s
nbn network to deliver Ka-band coverage across the country.
The Asia-Pacific region is set to benefit from ViaSat’s next-gen-
eration constellation. “ ViaSat has publicly announced its plans to
bring a ViaSat-3 ultra-high capacity satellite platform — which is
comprised of three ViaSat-3 class satellites with state-of-the-art
ground network infrastructure — to APAC,” says Girvan. “ Work is
under way with the first two ViaSat-3 satellites, with ViaSat starting
work on the satellite payloads and Boeing Satellite Systems starting
on the associated satellite bus platforms, expected for integration
and delivery in 2019,” he adds. The first two satellites in the con-
stellation will serve the Americas, and Europe, the Middle East and
Africa, with a third satellite earmarked for the APAC region, although
specific timing has yet to be disclosed. ViaSat-3 will deliver more
than 1-terabit per second of total network capacity to the region
With satellites typically having a lifespan of 15 years and taking
three to four years to design, build, launch and bring into service,
“operators are effectively in constant lifecycle planning of their sat-
ellite fleets”, says Girvan.
Gogo, Global Eagle and Panasonic Avionics all use satellites
from operators including Intelsat and SES to provide their in-flight
“Our key satellite partners in Asia-Pacific are SES and Intelsat,”
says Gogo, which provides connectivity services in the region for
Japan Airlines, Japan Transoceanic Air (JTA) and most recently Virgin
Australia. Japan Airlines is using Gogo’s first-generation system,
Gogo KU, while JTA and Virgin Australia are using its latest gener-
ation Gogo 2Ku service.
Over Japan, Gogo has a partnership with local satellite operator
JSAT, to use its JCSAT-5A satellite, while for Virgin Australia it works
with Optus Satellites. In China, it is working with China Telecom
Satellite to provide service for local carriers including Hainan Airlines
and Beijing Capital Airlines.
“Gogo has more than enough capacity to serve the aviation mar-
ket and has coverage across the globe,” says the service provider.
Earlier this year, the service provider signed a new deal with SES to
enhance capacity across the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Americas,
leasing additional capacity on SES’s AMC-4 satellite. This followed
a long-term agreement with Intelsat signed last year on using the
Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO)/Low Earth Orbit (LEO) network —
Intelsat’s Epic GEO satellites with OneWeb’s planned LEO satellite
constellation — for its 2Ku service.
“One of the great benefits of the Ku ecosystem is the on-demand
flexibility it offers us. Gogo’s scale and the scale of our satellite pro-
viders, with dozens of satellites in orbit, puts us in a unique position
◀ The SES-12 hybrid satellite will be launched in the first quarter of
2018 and will support IFC across the Asia-Pacific and Middle East
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