OneWeb tests inflight connectivity on Boeing 777

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TAMPA, Fla. — OneWeb said June 14 it successfully tested high-speed services on a commercial airliner last month using its low Earth orbit network.

Video streaming, online virtual reality gaming and other low-latency capabilities were demonstrated on a Boeing B777-200LR that took off from a public airport in Texas May 27, according to OneWeb.

The British startup said an electronically steered antenna on the aircraft achieved 260 megabits per second download and 80 megabits per second upload speeds.

However, OneWeb added this performance was achieved under test conditions and does not represent the commercial services it plans to offer.

The tests validated the terminal’s aircraft installation and integration, the company said, and demonstrated reliable connectivity during taxi, take-off, landing and other typical flight maneuvers. 

The plane flew for just over an hour after taking off from Fort Worth Alliance Airport.

Aircraft equipment integration specialist Stellar Blu Solutions provided the terminal platform, called Sidewinder, which incorporates electronically steered array technology from Ball Aerospace.

More Sidewinder flight tests are slated throughout 2022.

The companies aim to certify and make the platform available for the commercial aviation market — from wide-body airliners to regional jets — in mid-2023.

With 66% of its planned 648 satellites in LEO, OneWeb is currently only serving the upper reaches of the northern hemisphere as it waits to resume satellite deployments this year.

The operator had to pause its launch campaign in March after getting caught up in sanctions resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Last month, U.S.-based inflight connectivity provider Gogo announced plans to use a smaller electronically steered antenna from Hughes to connect lighter business jets to OneWeb satellites.

“Both [antennas] use best-in-class technologies from leading industry partners, reinforcing our approach to developing and deploying a viable, credible and certifiable solution for the aviation industry by the aviation industry,” OneWeb spokesperson Nick Maynard said.

OneWeb has said its constellation will be ready to connect business aircraft in 2024.

SpaceX has also been testing its Starlink LEO broadband constellation on aircraft of different sizes.

Jet service provider JSX has an agreement to become the first air carrier to provide Starlink this year. 

Larger commercial carrier Hawaiian Airlines aims to provide Starlink to its passengers in 2023.