Looking for the future of regional jet inflight connectivity? The seas off Puerto Rico this past month were a good place to start. That’s where Intelsat just spent four weeks testing its latest offering.
Intelsat acquired a CRJ-700 and fitted it with an Electronically Steered Antenna (ESA) from Stellar Blu. It is operating on a combination of satellites, including the OneWeb low earth orbit (LEO) constellation.
The plane has been flying with with Ball, Stellar Blu Solutions, Intelsat and OneWeb engineers on board, validating antenna and network performance. The company also hosted a number of international airlines for test flights out of San Juan.
After testing the GEO satellite functionality over the continental US, the aircraft headed to Puerto Rico for LEO testing. PaxEx.Aero understands this was a compromise to avoid any potential interference or issues with OneWeb systems in production on the continent, while allowing the aircraft to remain within the United States. As it is operating under an experimental type certificate – the connectivity hardware is not yet certified – it is not licensed for international operations.
The aircraft – N680SK – returned to the mainland last Friday and today the company formally announced the successful completion of the initial test program. The release touts download speeds exceeding 275Mbps to the plane. OneWeb CTO Massimiliano Ladovaz shared a test result showing speeds near 300 Mbps from one of the test flights.
The companies will now continue their work to certify the solution in advance of installation on the Alaska Airlines E175 fleet. That retrofit work is expected to begin early in 2024.
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