Delta and Hughes Partner on IFC

Image: Delta

Delta is tapping into satellite internet. 

This morning, the airline giant announced a partnership with Hughes to add antennas to 400+ planes to connect customers with the broadband provider’s JUPITER satellite network.

“Travelers expect a reliable Wi-Fi experience wherever they go, including in the air,” Reza Rasoulian, Hughes VP of broadband satellite services, said in a release. “The Hughes In-Flight connectivity solution enables Delta to meet that expectation with fast gate-to-gate connectivity.” 

The IFC market: In the past two years, the in-flight connectivity (IFC) market has seen a flurry of new recruits as airlines vie for the chance to supply fast, cheap (or free) WiFi to their customers. 

  • Starlink is partnered with JSX and Hawaiian Airlines, for example, and Viasat is under contract to supply GEO connectivity to Southwest and Virgin Atlantic, among others.
  • In more direct competition, CesiumAstro announced this year it would be rolling out an IFC terminal of its own.
  • A Euroconsut report predicted that ~21,000 commercial airplanes will provide connectivity by 2031, representing ~58% market penetration.

Breaking in: Hughes has been supplying in-flight connectivity arrays to the commercial aviation market for years now. The company’s antennas support connectivity to LEO and GEO, and Hughes signed a distribution agreement with OneWeb this year to provide joint services to airlines from both LEO and GEO.

Still, this is Hughes’ first time partnering directly with an airline to provide in-flight connectivity services. It’s a pretty big get, too—Delta pulled in more revenue than any other airline last year, at $50.6B earned.

Hughes plans to begin installing its antennas on Delta aircraft in mid-2024.

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