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Productivity and entertainment aloft are ensured by top inflight Internet providers.


Jake Carpenter
Contributing writer

gogo

Gogo Business Aviation’s Avance L5 system uses an LRU and 2 dual-directional antennas. Each antenna weighs 4 lb and can be mounted externally on the belly of the fuselage.


Today’s business aircraft passengers expect an inflight broadband experience that is comparable to what they enjoy at the office. They want to be able to interact with their company’s intranet, stream video and audio, and even view live sporting events and catch up on social media. This has been verified by Viasat’s 2023 Passenger Experience Survey. It comprises a representative sample of 11,053 respondents from all over the world, all of whom had flown at least once within the past 12 months. Research found that 81% of passengers consider that being able to connect is important.

Moreover, in the US, demand for free inflight WiFi increased by 50% since 2022, with India showing a 42% increase, and Brazil increasing by 35%. The study also reveals that 83% of passengers would rebook with an airline if it offered a quality WiFi experience. In addition, almost 29% of passengers are willing to pay more for their ticket to enjoy free WiFi, and 20% would even take a slower route to their destination.

Here, we present 5 of the most innovative companies providing outstanding inflight connectivity products for business aviation – Gogo, Intelsat, Satcom Direct, SmartSky, and Viasat.

Gogo

Gogo Business Aviation is a primary provider of in-flight connectivity for business aircraft. In late 2020, Gogo sold its large commercial aviation inflight connectivity business to Intelsat, enabling it to focus entirely on business aircraft. The company offers a robust suite of services, from Internet and voice to onboard entertainment. More than 7000 business aircraft are currently using Gogo inflight connectivity products.

Gogo Business Aviation’s Avance L5 is a multifaceted digital 4G system that combines Internet, voice, and diverse entertainment options, ensuring a comprehensive inflight experience. It relies on 2Ku satellite-based WiFi technology, which enables seamless live streaming and video conferencing.

Avance L5 operates on Gogo’s air-to-ground (ATG) network, which spans the contiguous US, large parts of Canada, and Alaska. In 2024, the company will internationalize its service through the 5G Gogo Galileo, which includes Gogo’s global low earth orbit (LEO) broadband satellite solution.

Gogo’s Avance L5 is offered as a factory option by all major business aircraft manufacturers. There are approximately 120 retailers and installers of Gogo’s Avance L5 in North America and globally, including Duncan Aviation, Weststar Aviation, and Standard Aero.

Intelsat

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Intelsat’s FlexExec is a fully redundant multi-layered network that ensures global coverage and reliability. Its capacity is dedicated and not shared with any other customers.


Intelsat offers high-speed Internet, live streaming, and on-demand content for business aircraft passengers. Intelsat’s FlexExec, based on the company’s Flex network, delivers consistent high-speed Internet during flight, irrespective of global positioning. It constitutes a multi-layered network, which integrates 16 satellites and 206 high-throughput beams to ensure redundancy and service reliability.

By collaborating with Satcom Direct’s Plane Simple Ku advanced tail mount antenna, FlexExec ensures that passengers enjoy uninterrupted connection, facilitating streaming, cloud-based applications, downloading large files, and even gaming.

Intelsat’s FlexExec is not directly installed on aircraft, but is rather an integral part of Satcom Direct’s Plane Simple Ku antenna system. It includes a tail-mounted antenna and only 2 line replaceable units (LRUs). Intelsat does not sell FlexExec directly, but is offered through Satcom Direct. FlexExec is implemented by a range of aircraft manufacturers, including Bombardier, Dassault, and Gulfstream. It has been approved for use by FAA, EASA, and Brazil’s ANAC.

Satcom Direct

Satcom Direct’s Plane Simple Ku-band antenna is mounted on the aircraft’s tail. The system is optimized to work with Intelsat’s FlexExec network to deliver fast WiFi connection, global coverage, and redundancy.

Satcom Direct offers fully integrated, end-to-end global satellite communications solutions that integrate seamlessly with onboard systems, using its satellite ground stations, data centers, and points of presence – all linked via a fully redundant private terrestrial network.

Satcom Direct provides business aircraft inflight connectivity, with services like streaming, live television, video calls, large file transfers, and corporate VPN access.

Satcom Direct provides the Plane Simple antenna series, with both the Ku- and Ka-band variants. Satcom Direct CEO and Founder Jim Jensen states, “Prior to Plane Simple, high-speed connectivity options were limited by capacity, restrictive pricing plans, and invasive installation, and were incompatible with changing satellite markets.

The Plane Simple antenna series resolves these needs.” The Plane Simple Ku-band antenna is fine-tuned to synchronize with Intelsat’s FlexExec network, while the Ka-band variant is designed for use with Viasat’s Jet ConneX. The Ku-band system performance is approximately 18 Mbps, while the Ka-band system can achieve 33 Mbps.

The Satcom Direct Plane Simple antenna series requires only 2 LRUs. A typical installation would include the Satcom Direct Ku or Ka antenna affixed to the tail or fuselage, plus the Satcom Direct modem and router units. Installations are handled by various OEMs and a global network of MROs, such as SkyService and Duncan Aviation. Authorized retailers in North America and internationally include Aery Aviation, Bombardier Aircraft Services, and Lufthansa Technik.

Satcom Direct equipment can currently be found on more than 8000 aircraft worldwide. Supplemental type certificates (STCs) are available for Bombardier Global series, Dassault Falcon, and Gulfstream aircraft.

SmartSky

SmartSky LITE comprises an aircraft base radio and one full-duplex quad antenna. Total weight is under 19 lb, and supports an infinite number of simultaneous devices.

SmartSky is committed to providing each business passenger with true office-in-the-sky functionality. The company has developed an innovative ATG network that leverages patented spectrum reuse and advanced beam-forming technologies to deliver remarkably enhanced connectivity.

The SmartSky LITE system operates uniquely on the 2.4 GHz unlicensed spectrum, which is analogous to ground public WiFi. Accessing 60 MHz of bandwidth across its network, the system maintains symmetrical data flow, which is a significant advancement over other ATG systems.

This approach provides SmartSky with twenty-fold more bandwidth, and data speeds that are 10 times faster. Each aircraft is also assigned an individual connection or beam, which avoids issues associated with bandwidth sharing. The network also uses the best of both 5G and LTE.

The SmartSky LITE low-latency system can be integrated into any aircraft, and supports an infinite number of simultaneous devices and a wide range of applications, such as FaceTime, Zoom, and Salesforce.

The SmartSky LITE system comprises one full-duplex quad (FDQ) antenna and the aircraft base radio (ABR), and weighs less than 19 lbs. MRO partners includes Avionica and Honeywell Forge, and installation partners include Banyan and Western Aircraft. STCs are available for Bombardier Challenger series, Cessna Citation X and XL series, and Dassault Falcon jets.

Viasat

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Viasat’s Ka-band airborne terminal has a 12-in parabolic antenna capable of operating on full ITU Ka-band spectrum with all polarizations. The GAT-5510 is a part of Viasat’s family of next-generation, full-ITU Ka-band terminals, enabling broadband inflight connectivity services for airborne operations around the globe.


Viasat holds a central position in the global communications sector. The company completed the acquisition of Inmarsat in spring 2023. This acquisition has enabled Viasat’s business aviation customers to have access to advanced, high-speed inflight connectivity solutions over Ka-band. Viasat’s satellite network covers 90% of the world’s top business aviation flight paths, and is currently implemened on more than 5000 business jets globally.

Jet ConneX leverages the capacity of Viasat’s network and Satcom Direct’s Plane Simple Ka antenna technology to achieve high-speed Internet connectivity. Passengers are able to stream video, conduct video conferencing, and access corporate VPNs with speeds that often exceed 30 Mbps. Due to its fully-redundant global Ka-band satellite network, Jet ConneX is also able to offer guaranteed data rates.

Jet ConneX is integrated by established OEMs into business aircraft, such as Bombardier, Dassault, and Gulfstream. The system comprises a 2-axis steerable antenna, a power supply unit, and an on-board modem. It can also be placed outside of the pressurized cabin. STCs have been obtained on more than 30 aircraft types, and 1000-plus installs have been completed.

Installation is available at numerous MROs, including Duncan Aviation and Jet Aviation. Viasat has a network of independent dealers in more than 80 countries, such as StandardAero and Airbus Corporate Jets. And service providers include Satcom Direct and Honeywell.

Conclusion

Over the past decade, inflight connectivity has evolved from a luxury to an expectation for business aircraft travelers. With passengers seeking an on-ground level of connectivity while 30,000 ft in the air, airlines are experiencing intense pressure to provide top-tier inflight connectivity solutions.

Gogo, Intelsat, Satcom Direct, SmartSky, and Viasat are at the forefront of addressing these needs, and offer cutting-edge connectivity products that are tailored specifically for business aviation. Their solutions range from sophisticated satellite-based WiFi technologies to pioneering ATG networks that ensure uninterrupted, high-speed Internet access during flights.

As the business aviation sector witnesses this markedly accelerated shift, service providers must continue to prioritize investing in and adopting innovative solutions to provide the exceptionally fast and reliable inflight connectivity that today’s passengers demand.