A Boeing 737 MAX, in Boeing livery, in-flight

Panasonic multi-orbit IFC nears entry into airframer linefit catalogs


HAMBURG — Panasonic Avionics is on track to see its muti-orbit electronically steered antenna (ESA)-based inflight connectivity solution available for linefit installs at Boeing in 2026, using the Stellar Blu Solutions Sidewinder package.

The IFEC giant’s traditional Ku-band gimbaled antenna solution and geostationary (GEO) satellite service has long been offerable at both Boeing and Airbus. Indeed, fourteen years ago Panasonic helped to fill the void left by Boeing’s earlier shuttering of the Connexion by Boeing-branded Ku IFC service. An updated version of Panasonic’s hardware, with a higher-throughput modem (and lots more satellite capacity) is still winning deals, including recently as Airbus linefit buyer furnished equipment (BFE) for Croatia Airlines.

Boeing linefit, BFE

But Panasonic’s nextgen multi-orbit solution, which is based on the Sidewinder ESA — and adds Eutelsat OneWeb Low Earth Orbit (LEO) service to GEO satellite service — is now tracking towards offerability in Boeing’s buyer furnished equipment (BFE) catalogue. Intelsat, too, is pursuing offerability at Boeing for its own flavor of multi-orbit LEO/GEO connectivity in partnership with Stellar Blu, and recently announced Japan Airlines as a Boeing linefit customer on the 737 MAX from 2026.

To accommodate Panasonic and Intelsat’s chosen ESA and multi-orbit configurations, Boeing is tweaking connectivity provisions on its jets, whilst Stellar Blu has tapped key partners, including Kontron, to accommodate the unique requirements of Eutelsat OneWeb’s modem placement.

“We’re doing exactly the same program as Intelsat. We are signing the TSAs with Boeing, and we will be available in 2026, pretty much exactly the same timeline as Intelsat,” Panasonic Avionics vice president, connectivity business unit John Wade confirmed to Runway Girl Network at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg.

There are different tracks related to the ESA connectivity work at Boeing, with the aero ISPs each inking their own TSAs with the airframer, in addition to the separate TSA already signed by Stellar Blu.

Though Panasonic has not yet secured a Boeing linefit customer for its multi-orbit solution, said Wade in Hamburg, “there’s multiple RFPs that we’re bidding on. Intelsat obviously has got JAL with the MAX aircraft. But we are actively engaged in many RFPs. We got positive indications for a number of airlines. So, we’re cautiously optimistic that we will have both Boeing and Airbus linefit in the near future.”

Airbus linefit, SFE

Over at Airbus, the Ku-band side of the airframer’s linefit supplier-furnished HBCplus program — for which Panasonic is a managed service provider (MSP) — “is tracking to second half of 2026” with Panasonic expecting linefit Airbus installations “in late 2026”, said Wade. Panasonic will power the multi-orbit service with its GEO network capacity and the Eutelsat OneWeb LEO aero service.

Technically, however, the Ku-band HBCplus solution, which sees Safran Passenger Innovations providing the terminal to Airbus inclusive of a Thales/Get SAT dual-beam ESA, isn’t yet offerable, with the PR perhaps moving a touch faster than the actual program.

Explained Wade:

Airbus would tell you that the interest in Low Earth Orbit, the LEO constellations, is extremely high. And we’re seeing that ourselves in terms of airlines just across the board. So I think it’s just a matter of time before… As soon as Airbus is willing to make commercial offers to install multi-orbit then I think we’ll see airlines committing.

Right now, Airbus has not reached what they call ATO date, which is the ‘approval to offer date’, so that won’t happen until later this year. So, an airline wanting Low Earth Orbit with HBCplus can’t even order it today. So that’s one of the impediments as to why we’re not seeing the orders yet, because it hasn’t reached that level of approval in the Airbus platform.

The OEMs don’t want to jeopardize linefit deliverables, and we completely understand why.

Aircraft retrofits

On the retrofit front, Panasonic’s multi-orbit solution inclusive of Stellar Blu’s 9×9 Sidewinder terminal “is on track to go into production in 2025 and everything is tracking to plan and we should see the first aircraft being installed midway through next year with multi-orbit,” revealed Wade.

“So, we’re looking at both twin-aisle and single-aisle and if things continue on track we will have both single-aisle and twin-aisle aircraft operating with multi-orbit, LEO and GEO, in 2025.”

Panasonic is very pleased with its arrangement with Eutelsat Oneweb, for which it is a distribution partner in aero, and indeed is very pleased with how the LEO service is performing (in advance of it formally entering IFC revenue service this fall). But the IFEC giant is also staying open to distribution partnerships with other potential LEO or MEO satellite operators down the road, with Wade telling RGN:

Yes, we would. I mean, Panasonic has remained sort of agnostic in terms of orbit, frequency bands. We’re open to any system that will deliver a high level of IFC service. Because we don’t own our own satellites, we’ve got the flexibility to not sell one particular flavor of satellite, because we think this is such an evolving market that there’s going to be opportunities for different satellite suppliers who want to get into this space and they’re looking for an avionics company such as Panasonic to represent them.

OneWeb is the first iteration of that; there may be others in the future. There’s none planned right now, but we’re very open to it. I’ve been talking to all the LEO operators, those that don’t want to go direct, and they’re all very interested in partnering with Panasonic.

In apparent reference to Viasat’s pivot to multi-orbit for maritime and its studies into hybrid aero applications, Wade said: “So, I think latency is really important. As we’ve always said, we talk about ‘leading with LEO‘ and I thought it was interesting that one GEO operator … decided in fact LEO does matter. And they’re now offering LEO into a non-aviation market and indicated they wanted to bring low latency solutions to all markets. So, I think that’s a validation of our view that latency matters. And it does.”

Panasonic is a longtime partner of SES, tapping the satellite operator for GEO capacity (the two even published a case study of their relationship a few years back, called Beyond ExpectationsPDF). Now that SES is acquiring Intelsat, does Panasonic expect that relationship to remain in place post-merger?

“It will,” replied Wade. “So, when the acquisition was announced, I spoke to executives at both SES and Intelsat and in fact they reached out to me and they assured me that that business model will remain intact. They don’t see a need to change that. And we remain very confident that our access to satellite capacity will remain the way it has.”


Panasonic does not feel the need to launch any satellites of its own or secure any specific payloads of its own. “No, we don’t,” said Wade.

“There’s so much change going on in space right now, the last thing I want to do is own a satellite. Because, you know, we considered doing it back when I was at Gogo and we realized that the technology curve was moving so fast that by the time you launch something, it’s almost going to be obsolete. And you could argue that some of those GEOs that have taken close to a decade to get to orbit are actually the wrong solution today. So, we think in this period of rapid change, there’s very little point in owning your own satellite asset just because it’s likely to be overtaken by whatever comes next.”

Summing up Panasonic’s messaging to airlines at AIX, Wade said: “[W]e are making great progress towards our multi-orbit solution and it will be available in 2025. We have made significant improvements to our current network. We’ve added 50% extra capacity over the last six to eight months. That’s all now in network and we’re seeing improvements across the board with all our airline customers in terms of NPS scores going up. We’re hearing a lot of positive comments about the progress we’re making. So, it’s really a testament to the fact that Panasonic is committed to IFC.

“There have been questions in the past about how committed was PAC to IFC. But we remain very committed to it. So, the current network will be supported while we get ready for multi-orbit and continue once multi-orbit is in place.”

Connected seatback is coming as well, he added. “So really a lot of very interesting developments there.”

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Featured image credited to istock.com/the_guitar_mann