Network Connectivity Factors That Affect the Passenger Experience

Panasonic Avionics< Panasonic Avionics
07/13/23 4 MIN READ

In their day-to-day lives, airline customers are downloading bigger apps, playing more bandwidth-intensive games, and streaming and videoconferencing for hours every day, while also demanding faster and more reliable network speeds.

They want it at home, at work, and when they fly on your aircraft—which is why the number of aircraft using in-flight connectivity services is expected to double in the coming decade, according to Euroconsult.

The context: Why LEO and GEO satellites matter

Network providers are constantly striving to do “bigger, better, faster, more” when it comes to on-the-ground connectivity. Airlines need to capitalize on this industry momentum by bringing the latest connectivity technologies into the cabin.

Airlines elevating their connectivity game isn’t only critical to improving their customer experience. It’s also essential to ancillary revenue growth and building customer loyalty in a competitive market.

Creating a satisfying passenger experience involves juggling coverage area, system resiliency, service consistency, and network capacity.

Much of this can be boiled down to three overarching performance concepts: responsiveness, flexibility, and scalability.

Until now, in-flight connectivity services have been operated over GEO (Geostationary Equatorial Orbit) satellite networks. New market developments will see the introduction of LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites for in-flight connectivity.

A multi-orbit network comprised of LEO and GEO satellite networks gives airlines access to low-latency global coverage, including in polar and remote oceanic regions, and a high-performance service.

Why bundling LEO and GEO is the best solution

GEO places a satellite in orbit around the Equator at 35,786 kilometers (22,236 miles), where it orbits at the same speed as the rotation of the Earth, so the satellite always remains at the same point in the sky relative to the Earth’s surface. In other words, it doesn’t orbit the Earth. It orbits with the Earth, appearing stationary.

GEO satellites cover large regions due to their distance from the Earth, giving aircraft and ground stations near global coverage with a low number of satellites. This simplifies the ground infrastructure necessary to give subscribers in the air and on the ground a consistent level of connectivity within the satellite’s footprint. Additionally, neighboring GEO satellites can provide overlapping coverage where more capacity is needed.

GEO satellite networks typically cover the majority of global flight routes, with limited coverage over remote areas, such as the North Pole.

LEO networks complement GEO networks by employing hundreds of satellites between 160–2,000 kilometers (100-1,200 miles) above the Earth’s surface. This configuration ensures global coverage, including at the North Pole.

The lower orbit reduces the distance between aircraft, satellite, and ground stations. This results in lower latency, providing a more responsive experience, especially noticeable with interactive apps such as web browsing, shopping, gaming and cloud-based services.

At the same time, some countries restrict access to LEO networks. This is exactly why airlines should maximize coverage with multi-orbit satellites: it guarantees Wi-Fi access at any altitude, in any region. Better still, the network is continuously being improved with the launch of additional satellites.

How LEO and GEO influence flexibility of coverage

Decision-makers at airlines want a solution that combines performance, coverage and reliability.

A multi-orbit network provides the ultimate flexibility, which allows an airline to leverage the proven capabilities of both LEO and GEO into an integrated communications network—one that ensures total global coverage and a consistent passenger experience.

Instead of treating different technologies as rivals, Panasonic leverages the benefits of both LEO and GEO. This allows us to deliver hybrid services that keep our customers’ aircraft reliably connected no matter the route flown. For our customers, that means never having to choose between LEO and GEO—because your coverage is multi-orbit by default.

Satellite service that can scale

An airline’s growing and evolving menu of in-flight connectivity services and apps needs a scalable, resilient network that can grow and evolve with it. As ground-based connectivity improves, airline customers will expect more high-bandwidth capabilities in-flight.

A multi-orbit network can expand as airlines grow. LEO and GEO work together to provide increased bandwidth, optimizing traffic and service to deliver airlines with a better performance. Over time, additional satellites can be added to expand both networks, supporting new and enhanced customer product offerings in flight.

As a network-agnostic service provider, Panasonic Avionics can increase capacity based on multi-orbit availability wherever it’s needed—no matter where you need to expand.

Contact a Panasonic Avionics representative today and let’s start a conversation.

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