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Airborne broadband emerging as a new market

Jan. 21, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By BEN IANNOTTA   |   Comments
BRIDEX 2013 Airshow
The Boeing C-17 frequently transports government VIPs, who need airborne broadband capabilities. (Master Sgt. Jerome Tayborn / U.S. Air Force)
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Airborne broadband technology is increasingly in demand in the government. The Obama administration has established a small-footprint, active foreign policy. Special operators will need to reach back to intelligence troves and plan missions on the fly. Diplomats will demand mobile connectivity with embassies and the State Department in Washington. Government VIPs, including the defense secretary and staff, will want broadband while flying around the world, sometimes in special VIP pods rolled into the bellies of C-17s.

“All of that speaks to having beyond-line-of-sight, in-transit communications and a range of communications from narrow to broadband,” said David Helfgott, CEO of Inmarsat Government, which provides SATCOM to the U.S. government, quoted in an earlier article.

Companies including ViaSat of Carlsbad, Calif. are vying to meet the demand with a mix of frequency bands and new kinds of communications terminals. ViaSat, is already working with JetBlue to launch an in-flight passenger broadband, and has plans for the military market as well. The company’s strategy uses both Ka- and Ku-band transmissions to provide the satellite links and enable broadband in flight.

“Over time, we are going to offer a hybrid service that will allow large platforms like the C-17 to operate in our Ku-band network and, where possible, over our Ka-band satellites,” said Paul Baca, ViaSat’s vice president and general manager of global mobile broadband systems.

C4ISR & Networks Editor Barry Rosenberg will host a webcast on the subject of airborne broadband on Jan. 30. To take part in the discussion click here.

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