Intelsat checks in on Airbus to expand in-flight connectivity

Intelsat has announced that its multi-orbit network offerings, relying on low Earth orbit (LEO) and geostationary (GEO) satellites, will be available to airlines and aircraft lessors through Airbus’s Airspace Link (HBCplus) communications solution.

This latest announcement comes in a year that has already seen the integrated satellite and terrestrial networks provider extend a long-term relationship with Air Canada to include 100 additional aircraft equipped for Wi-Fi with craft using new antenna, and expand its strategic agreement with satellite connectivity firm Hispasat to offer in-flight connectivity (IFC) in the Americas and the Atlantic.

Launched in June 2022, HBCplus, which initially encompassed Ka-band services, is designed to enable airlines to connect to a choice of managed service providers (MSPs) via a new certified terminal and radome built as part of the aircraft.

Airspace Link HBCplus provides satellite communication-based off-board connectivity for the Airspace Link open ecosystem representing an end-to-end Airbus offer. This solution, which enables the exchange of data as one integrated aircraft system, is positioned to unlock future digital services capacity and demand growth, allowing airlines to deliver enhanced passenger connectivity experience, in what the aircraft manufacturer says is an exponentially growing market.

Through the deal with Intelsat, Airbus will now be the largest service provider in the manufacturer’s flexible IFC service catalogue. Starting with aircraft deliveries targeting the first half of 2026, airlines may select the Airbu’ Ku-band ESA terminal, which is designed for simultaneous connections to Intelsat’s GEO network and LEO networks, like OneWeb. This data routing plan will deliver premium IFC service with an unmatched global level of resilience, low latency and high throughput that is unique to Intelsat. As part of the agreement, Airbus will manage the HBCplus system installation in line and retrofit, as well as the related in-service support.

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“Understanding that no airline is like any other, Intelsat has long offered flexibility and choice to its customers, including fit-for-purpose equipment options and a variety of business models and passenger service offerings,” said Dave Bijur, Intelsat’s senior vice-president of commercial aviation. “With Airbus, we are offering a new level of sophistication and flexibility that leverages the high throughput of GEO satellites with the low latency delivered by LEO satellites.”

The move also builds on Airbus’s first launch selections for its Airspace Link HBCplus on the A350 from Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines – revealed at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in June – and while it further expands the customer base for its built-in satcom connectivity solution across more Airbus aircraft families. Airbus also selected Safran Passenger Innovations (SPI) as its Ku-band satcom hardware supplier, integrating Get-SAT’s Electronically Steerable Antenna (ESA) and expects first entry of HBCplus Ku-band services over the course of 2026.

“The new blended multi-orbit IFC service is testament to the successful cooperation between the Airbus and Intelsat teams to develop joint solutions in response to customer demands,” added Maximilian Ruecker, Airbus vice-president for cabin procurement seats, IFE and electronics. “Intelsat’s innovative use of GEO and LEO satellites to seamlessly offer a blended multi-orbit solution fits the disruptive nature of the Airspace Link open ecosystem.”

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