Intelsat completed a series of historic test flights to the Arctic Circle demonstrating that airlines that require inflight internet connectivity on long-haul flights at extreme northerly latitudes can access low-latency, high-throughput service at any point on their route map. The test flights were completed on Intelsat’s test aircraft, a CRJ-700 regional jet equipped with an Electronically Steered Array (ESA) antenna.
On December 17, 2023, Intelsat operated its test aircraft from Seattle, Washington to Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage is located at roughly 61° north, making it the northernmost city served by major airlines, anywhere on the planet. This flight was operated using Intelsat’s fleet of geostationary (GEO) satellites, proving high-throughput GEO service is available using Intelsat ESA at all global airline hubs. On December 18, 2023, Intelsat operated a roundtrip flight from Anchorage to Utqiaġvik, Alaska (formerly Barrow, AK). Utqiaġvik is situated at a latitude of 71° north, the same as many polar routes connecting Asia, North America and Europe. This flight was operated using OneWeb’s fleet of low Earth orbit satellites and demonstrated that high-speed, low latency performance is available even in a challenging geographic region that previously never had inflight internet service.
“The two tests validated the capabilities of Intelsat’s multi-orbit solution for airlines,” said Pat Walsh, senior vice president of Engineering. “As the aircraft traveled due north from Anchorage into the Arctic Circle, we seamlessly connected to the OneWeb low-earth orbit constellation delivering 150 megabits per second inflight and on the ground in Alaska. In addition, near the polar region, Intelsat’s GEO operations exceeded expectations, delivering a reliable, high-speed connection all the way to Anchorage.”