Intelsat General Demos In-flight Broadband

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Bethesda, Md.-based Intelsat General Corp. said Aug. 6 that it recently demonstrated the capability to send secure video and high-speed broadband signals to an in-flight airplane by automatically switching beams across four satellites over three continents.

During the demonstration, which took place in June, multiple video feeds were sent in each direction at the same time that interactive broadband exchanges were taking place between the aircraft and multiple locations on the ground.

“This demonstration shows that we can achieve high-data rates and beam switching for comms-on-the-move applications using our global fleet of geosynchronous satellites,” Intelsat General President Kay Sears said in a statement.

The aircraft’s flight path took it over the United States, Europe and Africa. Intelsat General said the fully automated beam switching as the signal moved from one Ku-band satellite to the next occurred flawlessly, exactly where expected and without centralized control. The airborne terminal used in the demo had its own world map and used GPS to connect to the appropriate satellite and inaugurate switches as necessary.

Britt Lewis, Intelsat General’s vice president for marketing and business strategy, said the moving aircraft was able to receive data at a rate of 6 megabits per second and transmit at 1 megabit per second — speeds comparable to the current-generation iPhone.

The demonstration was held because there has been a recent increased demand for communications utilizing higher data rates, Lewis said. The signal moved from one Ku-band satellite to the next during the demonstration.

Engineers conducted video and data transmissions between multiple computers on the plane and at various ground locations during the demonstration, according to the press release. The testing was conducted in a secure, encrypted environment. Secure links were automatically re-established during the demonstration with each satellite switch, according to the press release.