Panasonic Avionics Is 1st To Book Intelsat Epic Capacity

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PARIS — Panasonic Avionics announced July 18 it will be the first customer on Intelsat’s new generation of high-throughput satellites, called Epic, booking 1 gigabit per second of capacity for aeronautical broadband services on a satellite scheduled for launch in 2015.

Lake Forest, Calif.-based Panasonic Avionics, which is assembling a global network of satellite coverage to provide television and Internet access to commercial airline passengers, also has contracted for new capacity on the Intelsat 21 and Intelsat 27 Ku-band satellites, scheduled for launch in August and in early 2013, respectively.

Luxembourg- and Washington-based Intelsat, the world’s largest commercial satellite fleet operator, is using the Intelsat 21 and Intelsat 27 spacecraft to complete a global network to provide mobile connectivity to aeronautical and maritime markets. The company has concluded that Ku-band, especially when tethered to a high-throughput platform such as the Epic satellites, will prove superior to Ka-band for high-speed mobile applications.

Other companies, including O3b Networks of Britain’s Channel Islands and Inmarsat of London, are procuring satellite systems to provide Ka-band bandwidth for mobile applications on the assumption that Ku-band frequencies are too crowded to permit the throughput enabled by the less-used Ka-band.

The Intelsat 29e and Intelsat 33e Epic spacecraft — two to start, with others likely to follow — will act as an overlay to Intelsat’s existing global satellite fleet in Ku- and C-band in regions where Intelsat says it has plenty of bandwidth available. Intelsat also has multiple Ka-band satellites registered with international frequency regulators, and has said Epic may include Ka-band capacity as well.

Panasonic Avionics already leases Ku-band capacity for its aeronautical communications suite, including capacity aboard two Intelsat satellites over the Atlantic Ocean region. This application will be migrating to the Intelsat 21 and Intelsat 27 spacecraft once they are operational.

Once the first Epic satellite, Intelsat 29e, is in service in 2015 or 2016, Panasonic will offer that satellite’s higher-speed capacity to its customers.

Each Epic satellite is expected to provide between 25 and 60 gigabits per second of capacity. Each spot beam will deliver 200 megabits per second of throughput, which Intelsat said means up to 80 megabits per second allocated to a given aircraft.

Intelsat 29e will be operated at 50 degrees west longitude and the company expects to select a builder for the satellite in the coming weeks, Dianne J. VanBeber, Intelsat vice president of investor relations, said July 18.

Given its previous investment in Ku-band, it is perhaps not surprising that Panasonic has thrown its lot in with Intelsat. Industry officials said the coming 18 months, during which Intelsat will launch its two mobile-communications-oriented satellites, and O3b and Inmarsat will be launching their Ka-band systems, will determine whether Ka- or Ku-band wins the market’s early favor.

“Panasonic will use Ku-band technology to deliver to airlines the highest possible throughput capacity on a global, open architecture platform, without any costly changes to antenna equipment or unnecessary aircraft downtime,” Panasonic Avionics Chief Executive Paul Margis said in a July 18 statement about the Intelsat contract.