Intelsat prepares for trans-Pacific broadband service

A launch glitch damaged Intelsat's satellite, but in-flight and on-board broadband will be available

Intelsat is close to expanding its satellite broadband service for ships and aircraft to the northern Pacific Ocean, despite a launch glitch that damaged a solar panel, the company said Tuesday.

The Intelsat 19 satellite was put into space on June 1 but one of the two solar panel arrays failed to deploy as scheduled shortly after launch. Engineers managed to get it deployed on June 12 and spent the next two weeks verifying the satellite was at its correct orbital position and that communications antennas were operational.

That work has now been completed and the satellite is in geo-stationary orbit at 166 degrees East.

But the launch glitch resulted in damage to the south solar array, and that will mean power available from the array will be less than planned, Intelsat said.

Still, broadband service from the satellite will be available, said Dianne VanBeber, a spokeswoman for Intelsat.

Intelsat 19's payload includes two ku-band beams covering the Northeast and Northwest Pacific Ocean. The beams should mean uninterrupted coverage for aircraft flying between the Unites States and East Asia.

The satellite will also serve as a bridge for television signals between the U.S. West Coast and countries in the Pacific, replacing Intelsat 8. Customers include Discovery Networks, MTV, ESPN, CNBC and BBC World.

Satellite broadband service to aircraft got an early start in 2001 with Boeing's Connexion service, but the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 that year saw U.S. airlines cut back on in-flight amenities and the service ultimately failed. A second generation of services has been recently launched.

On Monday Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) became the latest international airline to announce plans to deliver broadband access via satellite to passengers. ANA will use the OnAir service from Intelsat rival Inmarsat and plans to launch on Boeing 767 and 777 aircraft from mid-2013. ANA was once a customer of Connexion by Boeing.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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