Huge investment in global Ku satellite network in the pipeline for Panasonic Avionics

April 5, 2012


world 150x150 Huge investment in global Ku satellite network in the pipeline for Panasonic AvionicsPanasonic Avionics is poised to make a “huge” financial investment in a new Ku-band satellite network that promises to provide high throughput spot beam capability in the Ku frequency, and compete with Inmarsat’s Ka-band Global Xpress network.

The new network will overlay with Panasonic’s existing Ku network (developed under multiple partnerships with satellite operators), and will provide an “immense amount of new capacity” designed to provide the “maximum amount of capability where airplanes fly”, says Panasonic VP, global communications David Bruner.

Expected to go live in 2015, the new network will be best in market, according to Bruner, “from the standpoint of maximum bandwidth and lowest cost”; it will be priced 20 or 30 per cent less than current Ku service.

Panasonic will also continue to be able to support global IPTV for live news and sports. “Some of the services…coming out would not support the IPTV service,” notes Bruner.

The first satellite, which will be launched over the North Atlantic, will cover heavily trafficked United States, Canada, North Atlantic and Europe “all in one shot with a massive amount of capacity”.

Panasonic has stayed mum about its would-be partner in the new network, but satellite industry consultant Tim Farrar recently reported the company is apparently in line to become the anchor aeronautical tenant for a global Ku network launched by Intelsat. Bruner says Farrar’s announcement was “premature”, but notes that he is “a pretty savvy guy”.

What is clear is that Panasonic intends to make a sizeable investment in the new network. The outlay “will probably exceed anyone else in the aeronautical space”, Bruner said during the recent Satellite 2012 conference in Washington DC. He later said, during a press briefing at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, that a “huge monetary amount of money [is] associated with the agreement so we have to be very careful how we go about this”.

Panasonic’s investment is not limited to the network, however. The company, which has inflight connectivity commitments covering over 1,300 aircraft, admits it subsidises the hardware for airlines in some instances. “We try not to go crazy on it, like others have in the past, but we still dabble in it,” says Bruner.

Inmarsat has publicly pinned its investment in Global Xpress at $1.2 billion, though this sum will also be leveraged into adjacent networks for land and sea. Global Xpress partners, meanwhile, are “making very substantial investments alongside that to develop applications and services”, equating to a total investment figure in the $2 billion range, says Global Xpress managing director Leo Mondale.

ViaSat puts its investment into regional Ka service at $1 billion, though its ViaSat-1 satellite over the United States – which will support inflight connectivity for JetBlue Airways’ fleet and over 200 United-Continental aircraft – also provides residential services.

Panasonic is fitting the rest of United-Continental’s mainline fleet with Ku.

Bruner claims that Panasonic’s global Ku network will be “way better in actually every respect” over the competition. “You’ve always heard me say, ‘I wish I had ViaSat’s capacity and Inmarsat’s footprint’, so that’s what we have.”

A video of Bruner’s press briefing in Hamburg is below.


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About Mary Kirby

Editor in Chief - APEX Media Platform | Previously Senior Editor at Flight International where she led the magazine's coverage of in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) and aircraft interiors | Former proprietor of the highly-regarded Runway Girl blog, which focused on the passenger experience | Regularly speaks at industry conferences about airborne communications, ancillary revenue opportunities for airlines and social media | You can connect with Mary on Twitter, LinkedIn

View all posts by Mary Kirby

6 Responses to “Huge investment in global Ku satellite network in the pipeline for Panasonic Avionics”

  1. Hugh Says:

    I’ve been watching the hype with Ku and Ka, airborne Wi-Fi and the like. I do give credit to GoGo for being the first, just like the dial-up modems. They were the first connections we were exposed to and for the longest time, were our only options for getting “out there”.

    Now the airborne broadband, much like the DSL and Cable modems, have entered the picture giving us much higher and more consistent speeds and connectivity. For those vendors that have it working on airlines, it’s making sense. For those that do not have it, rely on making hype for the next big thing.

    I live in Dallas and have to say I’m partial to American and Southwest, two Dallas-based airlines. One has GoGo’s system and the other has Row44′s system. I like both, and the both seem to be really consisent although I do see more uptime with the Row44 system. (although I have more frequent flyer miles with AA).

    This leads up to my point. Like I said, I’ve been watching this for a while now and it seems like Panasonic is very good at sound, no matter what context one is talking about. One of them, I own. It’s in my living room, a Panasonic HC-35 stereo system, one of the compact jobs that really has some great sound.


    Marketing sound.

    If you look at the hype for this Ku and Ka stuff, historically most of the hype has come from Panasonic. Just do a Google search on Panasonic and Ku, or Ka. They’re ready to “throw dollars at this”, “huge investments in in the pipeline”, don’t do Ku, wait for Ka and they’ll have the greatest thing since sliced bread…

    Looking at Google results some more…from 2009, “Good things come to those who wait”…”serious progress in developing Ku-based connectivity”.

    Like I said, I really like Panasonic sound, but it’s just noise.



    • Mary Kirby Says:

      Hi Hugh,
      Thanks for your comment. You say that vendors who do not have inflight broadband need to rely on hype. Whilst Panasonic’s Ku system is not yet installed on a US aircraft, it is operational on some Lufthansa, Gulf Air and Turkish aircraft. It is linefit offerable on the Boeing 777 and Airbus A350, and Airbus recently confirmed it will offer the system on the Airbus A380 (it is doing so for Lufthansa, a large customer of Panasonic).
      Best regards,


      • Hugh Says:

        Hi Mary,

        Did not know the overseas airlines as I fly only in the U.S. and only hear the rumblings going on here. I went to one of the APEX things as a curious passenger and was very turned off with the ‘hype’ I heard.

        But I still stand by the fact that Panasonic does make good stereos. :-)



  2. columbia Says:

    Thanks for sharing knowledge .



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