Gogo, others set sights on future small, high-capacity antennas for regional jets

Count Gogo as one of those involved in efforts to get ultra-thin satellite antenna solutions to market.

"A small, high-capacity antenna for satellite for business aviation jets or regional jets is the holy grail," said Norman Smagley, executive vice president and CFO at in-flight Wi-Fi service provider Gogo during the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference.

"Everybody is pursuing it. We are as well. So, we don't see anybody coming out much ahead of us, frankly, and with the expertise we have in terms of engineering and working with a multitude of antenna providers, we're pursuing same path, so don't really see any advantage that somebody else would have over us."

Smagley was asked if there were any specific partnerships in the works. "We are evaluating it very actively is all I'll say right now," he remarked.

Earlier this year, Intelsat announced it signed an agreement to co-design and produce an ultra-thin, active phased array, Ku-band satellite antenna solution with Phasor, provider of electronically steerable antennas (ESAs). Under that deal, Ku-band antennas will be developed exclusively for Intelsat and optimized for the Intelsat Epic high throughput satellite (HTS) platform, the first satellite of which is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2016.

The civil and government small-jet markets are expected to experience significant growth, particularly in the developing markets around the world, according to Intelsat.

During the company's first-quart conference call with investment analysts, Intelsat CEO Steve Spengler was asked about the rationale behind getting into the satellite antenna business with Phasor and Kymeta, a developer of metamaterials-based antenna technology.

Spengler said there are three primary areas of focus for the new technology. First is delivering higher performance for applications; the second is to deliver better economics to allow customers to expand services.

The third is about accessibility: "We believe very strongly that it's important to enable new growth applications with technologies and with antenna systems, in particular, that are smaller, high performing and with the proper economics to enable these new services," he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

In the case of Phasor, there's a large opportunity in the small business jet marketplace that is unaddressed today from a broadband standpoint, he said. The barrier to get into this segment is the size of the antenna and the performance of the antenna in a small package. "What we're doing is to develop a very innovative antenna with a very interesting form factor that allows us to solve that problem, which will open up that particular market," he said.

For more:
- listen to the webcast
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript

Related Articles:
Qualcomm, Gogo continue clash over in-flight spectrum rules
Qualcomm plan for 500 MHz of in-flight broadband spectrum wins initial FCC nod
United Airlines goes with Aircell's Gogo inflight WiFi service

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