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OneWeb takes off with Intelsat to bring multi-orbit connectivity to airlines worldwide

Agreement aims to expand the availability of low earth orbit connectivity for aviation and transform the experiences of passengers and flight crews

Satellite communications companies OneWeb and Intelsat have agreed a global distribution partnership to offer airlines a seamless inflight connectivity (IFC) service.

The firms expect the multi-orbit offering to be in service by 2024, and the partnership is claimed to offer the best combination of performance, coverage and reliability on the market, designed to enable Intelsat to distribute OneWeb’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite services to airlines worldwide, coupled with Intelsat’s IFC experience and existing geo-stationary (GEO) satellite service.

“This level of connectivity will enable airlines to maximise brand affiliation with passengers through all their onboard services – delivering a truly connected end-to-end passenger journey,” said Jeff Sare, Intelsat’s president of commercial aviation.

“The hybrid service offering further allows the global airline community to plan their suite of next-generation onboard services with confidence – not only ensuring a future-proofed passenger inflight connectivity experience, but also the implementation of a connected airline digitisation strategy.”

By harnessing the power of multi-orbit capabilities, Intelsat said it will ensure airlines and their passengers are able to enjoy the best IFC without compromise. Airlines and their passengers will no longer have to accept significant gaps in IFC coverage or capacity – even at busy hubs, across oceans and over polar routes. Intelsat will seamlessly manage connectivity, allowing passengers to remain connected no matter where they are.

“This is a watershed moment for the inflight connectivity market, and we’re excited to work together with Intelsat to bring our multi-orbit solution to commercial aviation,” said Ben Griffin, vice-president of mobility services at OneWeb. “We’re committed to delivering the most differentiated and innovative solution for airlines.

“We are proving that, through the power of partnership, a superior suite of multi-orbit capabilities can be offered to better serve the growing connectivity needs of the commercial aviation industry, delivering the highest value coupled with the lowest risk.”

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The Intelsat partnership is the first deal OneWeb has announced since confirming it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with global LEO satellite provider and company investor Eutelsat regarding a potential merger.

The MoU has the objective of creating a leading global player in connectivity through the combination of both companies in an all-share transaction.

The deal will see Eutelsat own 100% of OneWeb, excluding the “special share” of the UK government, and combine its 36-strong fleet of geostationary Earth orbit satellites with OneWeb’s constellation of 648 LEO satellites, of which 428 are currently in orbit.

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