Honeywell, OneWeb Partner on Satellite Broadband Service

Space-based high-speed Internet coming by 2019.

Honeywell is partnering with OneWeb, a startup satellite company founded by a group of former Google execs and backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Qualcomm, to bring broadband Internet service to aircraft anywhere in the world — and maybe even the airplane you fly.

Planned to make its commercial debut about four years from now, OneWeb will deploy 650 low-Earth-orbit satellites capable of providing up to 10 terabits per second of high-speed Internet data to billions of users around the world.

OneWeb has selected Honeywell as a “key partner” to bring broadband Internet access to commercial jetliners, military aircraft and business airplanes — and possibly even light general aviation aircraft.

While Honeywell hasn’t announced a service for the lighter end of GA, sources say the OneWeb airborne hardware will be small and light enough to fit on just about any aircraft, down to the size of a typical single-engine airplane.

Honeywell will use OneWeb’s bandwidth to stream maintenance data, transmit weather and navigation data to pilots, and supply super-fast Internet connections to passengers. The system also could stream real-time flight data or cockpit audio and video, ideas regulators are discussing after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 last year.

Honeywell presumably won’t be the only hardware and service provider to offer OneWeb access to aviation customers, but it will have a sizable head start on the competition as an early partner. Nor will OneWeb be the only global broadband Internet provider as Google, Facebook and SpaceX eye this emerging market as well. But again, with OneWeb planning to start launching its Ku-band satellites starting in 2017, it will have a jump on competitors that could prove vital to its long-term success.

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