Late last year Thales conceded defeat. The company acknowledged that its Ka-band antenna solution was not living up to the challenges of delivering the new in-flight connectivity service to airline customers. It would require a “rip-and-replace” upgrade to meet its goals.
Now, with the resumption of installations at STS Aero Mod in Melbourne we’re learning just what that rip-and-replace means. The new Thales system will fly with the Thinkom Ka2517 antenna kit on board, not Thales’s in-house solution.
This is a huge boost for Thinkom, recognizing the efficiency and reliability of its mechanically steered, phased array solution. And using the separate antennae for transmit (17″) and receive (25″) similar to the 2Ku approach Gogo pioneered with Ku-band on commercial aircraft furthers the efficiency of the offering.
Since late 2018 PaxEx.Aero has been following reports of Thinkom’s progress in gaining customers for the Ka2517 kit on commercial aircraft. Gogo suggested late last year that it could roll out Ka-band services on its existing fleet and upped the speculation on that front in May 2020 when it announced an option to swap from 2Ku to 2Ka on a short maintenance visit, trading the Ku-band apertures on board for the smaller Ka-band options while retaining the rest of the installation infrastructure.
We’ve also followed stories of multiple A320 and 737 family STC programs, including the installation of the ThinAir Ka2517 system on private aircraft.
But now we know that at least one Spirit Airlines plane has the Ka2517 kit on the roof. And this is where things become even more interesting.
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