Satcom Direct has transformed from a major service provider to a satellite communication systems hardware company in order to provide consistent satellite communications onboard connectivity to business aviation customers. Its first hardware was an SD router, and now its Inmarsat Ku-band flat-panel simple satellite communication is preparing to enter the satellite connectivity market.
“Consistency of service is our focus and capability,” said Chris Moore, president of Satcom Direct. “So when someone gets into a business jet [connectivity is] Powered by Satcom Direct, they get the most consistent service anywhere. “
By the end of this year, Satcom Direct expects its Ku-band Plane Simple system to be installed on 30 early adopter aircraft. The system will be installed on several aircraft in the second half of next year.
“We’re expecting a lot of customers,” Moore said. He added that Satcom Direct will also begin testing Ka-band planar simple antennas by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, Satcom Direct is advancing flat panel antenna technology with German antenna maker QEST Antenna Technology, which also makes the Plane Simple antenna. The flat panel antennas are designed to work with OneWeb’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network, which will provide service in the 50 Mbps range and eventually 150 to 200 Mbps.
The advantage of flat panel technology is that it enables high-speed satellite communications in small aircraft, including light jets such as the Embraer Phenom 300 or Cessna Citation CJ3. “We can do it smaller,” Moore said, “but it depends on how much customers are willing to pay for internet access.”
According to Moore, testing has addressed cooling issues with the flat panel antenna. “It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.
For larger business jets, Moore anticipates customers will want to install both LEO and Inmarsat geostationary satellite communications systems to provide redundancy and address a variety of use cases. For example, a high-speed lane could be dedicated to streaming video conferencing, leaving additional capacity for passengers’ communication and entertainment needs. “We can be smart about it all,” Moore said.