Panasonic's R&D into Ka and hybrid Ku/Ka antennas progresses

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Panasonic Avionics is progressing in its efforts to research and develop Ka and hybrid Ku/Ka antennas that will support high-speed airborne Internet on civil aircraft.

The in-flight entertainment giant currently offers a Ku-band-supported connectivity solution, and counts Lufthansa, Turkish, Cathay, SAS and others as customers.

"The first priority [with respect to Ka] is to build a really great antenna that can operate off a Ka satellite, but you then have to know what satellite you're talking to - is it a ViaSat type; is it a Hughes Jupiter type Ka; is it an Inmarsat Ka satellite; and then [ask yourself]: 'What is the expectation of how that is going to be deployed,'" said Panasonic Avionics vice-president, global communications services David Bruner during a recent interview with Air Transport Intelligence.

Making sure the RF aperture is "the highest performing on in the marketplace" is crucial, he said, adding that he believes the "jury is still out" on who makes the best Ka antenna right now. Panasonic is keeping a close eye on the marketplace for "who has all of it or part of it to go with our own assets".

Explaining why the firm is pursuing development of a hybrid antenna, Panasonic Avionics CEO Paul Margis said that if an operator is using existing Ku satellites but Ka is deemed to give an advantage in certain areas, "then it makes sense to have" a hybrid antenna.

Ka-supported connectivity is expected to be less expensive than Ku. "We're really in the R&D phase. Right now the research is looking at what's possible, what does the physics allow from a radome standpoint, from an antenna aperture standpoint and from a business model," added Margis.