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Airlines will be able to have satellite broadband terminals installed on new aircraft as a factory option, after satellite broadband supplier ViaSat signed an agreement to make its in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity system available on all new Boeing commercial airliners.
Under the terms of the deal, ViaSat’s Ka-band airborne satellite hardware will be evaluated as a factory option for Boeing aircraft prior to delivery, which means aircraft will come off the production line with broadband connectivity ready for immediate service.
For airline customers, this means they will no longer have to take aircraft out of service for post-production retrofitting of connectivity equipment, which more and more are now offering.
ViaSat said its agreement would also guarantee flight crews and passengers a best-in-class in-flight internet experience thanks to the first service level agreement in the aviation sector, regardless of how many devices or aircraft are connected to its network.
“Our agreement with Boeing is an important milestone, giving our airline customers the ability to get the best onboard Wi-Fi system delivered with the latest aircraft,” said Don Buchman, vice-president and general manager of commercial mobility at ViaSat.
“Airlines can differentiate their in-flight internet service with a flexible, sustainable business model that will continue to create value as more passengers use the service,” he said.
John Craig, chief engineer of cabin and network systems for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said: “In initiating the evaluation process with long-time partner ViaSat, we now look to add ViaSat airborne terminals to our line-fit factory options. This will give Boeing’s commercial airline customers a new cost- and time-effective high-bandwidth connectivity choice for their airplanes.”
ViaSat’s in-flight Ka-band service is currently operational on approximately 500 aircraft worldwide, with jetBlue in the US a major customer. As one of the fastest in-flight internet options currently available, it is capable of hitting speeds of around 40Mbps down.
The two firms have been working together to offer ViaSat’s Flexible Broadband System, which couples ViaSat’s high-capacity ViaSat-2 satellite payload design with Boeing’s 702SP (Small Platform) satellite bus. The partners say this brings down barriers of entry for regional satellite service providers, which can now focus capacity to match bandwidth demand and scale their infrastructure as required.
Boeing previously attempted to introduce its own in-flight internet service called Connexion, which used Ku-band satellites. However, it was shuttered in 2006 due to lack of interest from airlines.