Panasonic Avionics’ specific plans for wideband-to-HTS-to-XTS may have changed as it evaluates its role as a customer for one or more LEO broadband constellations. But the deal with APT Mobile Satcom shows XTS is still alive. The agreement fills in the East Asia piece and answers questions about IFC in China. Credit: Panasonic Avionics

PARIS — In-flight-connectivity/entertainment provider Panasonic Avionics, whose plans for a super-high-throughput (XTS) satellite network in geostationary orbit had gone silent in recent months, on March 8 said the XTS service would debut on APT Satellite’s Apstar 6D, to launch in 2019.

Panasonic will apparently be the principal user of Apstar 6D capacity. The company said it and APT Satellite Holdings had jointly designed the satellite, now under construction by China Great Wall Industry Corp. (CGWIC). In response to queries, Panasonic said it was “the anchor tenant with multiple gigabits of capacity available to it.”

Apstar 6D is formally owned by APT Mobile Satcom, an APT affiliate. The satellite had been seen as the cornerstone of a constellation of geostationary-orbit satellites to provide broadband connectivity. But APT’s Chinese partners, and APT itself, have so far not announced a commitment to the funding required for the network.

That leaves just Apstar 6D, which Panasonic said would provide “multiple gigahertz” of Ku-band capacity over China and several air correctors around Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, each of which will be covered by spot beams.

Panasonic said Apstar 6D also has a wide-beam capacity covering the Pacific and Indian oceans, Australia and the South Pacific down as far as Antarctica, a region that is little-served by other announced high-throughput spot-beam satellites.

Panasonic said its current customers include 21 Asian airlines operating more than 800 lanes. Non-Asian Panasonic Avionics customers will have access to Apstar 6D as their flights pass into the satellite’s field of view.

Andy Fellows, Panasonic Avionics vice president for Asia, Japan and China, said the satellite will target multiple Asian markets, but especially China.

“From the very beginning, we knew China was the fastest-growing market for in-flight connectivity, and we worked tirelessly with partners to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals to expand service in this key region.”

Whether Panasonic could have secured operating rights in China with a company not majority-owned by Chinese interests, or using a satellite not built by China’s space industry and operated by a Chinese fleet owner, is uncertain.

“APT has provided technical support in design and project management, and will provide satellite operation after launch,” Panasonic Avionics said.