OneWeb is looking to cement its place in the IFC (in-flight connectivity) market through a new distribution partnership with Hughes that will add LEO broadband connectivity to its in-flight WiFi offerings.
The partnership: Under the agreement, Hughes, which already offers IFC services to airlines, will utilize OneWeb’s constellation to offer LEO-specific connectivity. Airlines will be able to install Hughes’ electronically steered arrays to connect with the LEO sats.
The partnership covers two IFC packages for airline customers:
- A LEO-only offering
- A fusion offering, which would switch between LEO and GEO connectivity as needed throughout a flight
This partnership follows an agreement last year between OneWeb and GoGo Business Aviation that also used Hughes arrays to provide LEO IFC service to business flights.
Sussing the market: Euroconsult estimates that 9,900 commercial aircraft operated by more than 120 airlines offer WiFi in the skies, according to a report on the state of IFC published last year, but there’s lots of room for growth. By 2031, the report predicted, more than double that number of aircraft will have WiFi connectivity in flight, representing ~58% market penetration.
The past few years, competition between broadband providers has been heating up in the aviation market. Viasat has deals to provide connectivity from GEO to Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, and a number of other airlines. On the LEO side, SpaceX launched its Starlink Aviation service last year and has signed agreements with JSX and Hawaiian Airlines.