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Hughes Lands Delta Deal to Connect 400 Regional Jets 

By Rachel Jewett | November 1, 2023

Hughes Network Systems in-flight connectivity demo. Photo: Hughes

Delta Air Lines has tapped Hughes Network Systems to supply in-flight connectivity (IFC) to more than 400 Boeing 717 and regional jets serving North America. This marks Hughes’ first direct-to-airline IFC deal. 

The offering combines the Hughes in-flight management system, a ThinKom multi-orbit antenna and Jupiter Ka-band satellite capacity. The program is already underway and initial installations are expected to begin in mid-2024. Hughes announced the deal on Nov. 1, financial terms were not disclosed. 

Delta has an existing deal with Viasat for more IFC on more than 1,000 aircraft including narrowbody and widebody fleets. 

Reza Rasoulian, Hughes vice president of Broadband Satellite Services, told Via Satellite that Hughes competed on a Delta RFP and won after flight testing and rigorous work with the Delta connectivity team. Rasoulian said it will retrofit existing aircraft that are currently equipped with an Intelsat solution, which will be deinstalled. 

“There’s a lot of integration activity happening as we speak,” he said. “All of the interaction [with Delta] has been absolutely tremendous. Delta has a lot of experience, and a lot of great ideas on how to kind of make the passenger experience seamless. We’re providing the superhighway — a lot of capacity to their aircraft — and they’re using their great portal system.” 

The service will be launched with Hughes Jupiter capacity. The operator’s Jupiter-3 satellite will enter service later this year. While Hughes has a strategic partnership with Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) operator OneWeb to distribute its connectivity to the global airline market, Rasoulian could not comment on whether LEO capabilities will be a part of this Delta offering. 

Hughes Network Systems has previously participated in the IFC market more behind the scenes, providing Jupiter baseband systems, technology platforms, and managing the interaction between the aircraft and the ground segment for other service providers. 

Now, the company is bidding on other direct-to-airline deals. Rasoulian said Hughes will continue to support its existing partners, but the company sees a “huge” opportunity in the IFC space and “insatiable demand” for passengers to be connected. 

“Airlines are looking for a service provider that’s nimble, agile, and can provide a fast service. We are eager and excited to expand our portfolio and add customers,” Rasoulian said. “One of the recurring themes in our discussions is that we are able to be agile. We don’t have any preconceived notions of how to implement. We’re very collaborative in our approach, which has resonated well.”