Editor’s comment: Ice, Ice, Wi-Fi

Inflight editor Alexander Preston summarises the latest happenings across IFEC and cabin technology.

Despite the increase in the number of satellites delivering in-flight communication services as more and more airlines invest in deploying onboard Wi-Fi, one region has remained largely obstinate in its approach.

Until now, the Arctic has largely given a cold shoulder to broadband communications. Since 2015, Space Norway has been working on finding sustainable solutions that ensure that both the public and private sectors receive their needs for broadband communication in the north using satellites.

Space Norway will co-operate with satellite operator Inmarsat and the Norwegian Ministry of Defence to offer mobile broadband coverage to civilian and military users in the Arctic. Two satellites (GX10A and GX10B) will be built by Northrop Grumman and are scheduled to be launched by SpaceX in late 2022 into a Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO), and provide full coverage from 65 degrees north. A ground station will be established in north Norway.

Each satellite will carry multiple payloads, and the system is scheduled to be operational for at least 15 years, with users able to switch between current geostationary satellites and the HEO satellites.

Space Norway has established a subsidiary limited liability company, Space Norway HEOSAT, which will conduct the programme and later operate the satellites.

Rupert Pearce, chief executive officer, Inmarsat, said: “Connectivity in the Arctic region is growing in importance as aircraft fly more northerly routes, merchant ships transit new high-value waterways and the region becomes of increasing geo-political importance for diverse governments. Inmarsat’s GX network will always seek to be ahead of where our customers are going and what they demand from us. This enhancement is fully backward compatible and will strengthen coverage over the Arctic to provide the connectivity needed by our customers now and into the future. As part of the existing Inmarsat GX network, customers will now have seamless, high-quality mobile broadband services as they travel in and out of the Arctic region.”

With this new partnership, and the increased network flexibility and efficiency it hopes to deliver, Space Norway and its partners will ensure passengers flying over the High North will no longer be frozen out with glacial Wi-Fi speeds.


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