And ViaSat makes three…Let the Ku-band race begin

I know what you’re thinking fellow in-flight connectivity enthusiasts. That third Ku-band-based connectivity provider – ViaSat – has fully emerged and Runway Girl has made nary a recent mention. Oh ye of little faith.

 

ViaSat.jpgWe’ve known for some time that ViaSat was interested in getting into the game. To be fair, however, the extent of their plans was less clear until IFE journo extraordinaire Brendan Gallagher penned an incisive piece about ViaSat last month during the World Airline Entertainment Association’s conference and exhibition in Long Beach.

 

The addition of ViaSat to the Ku-band connectivity race makes for an exciting three-way competition with Row 44 and Panasonic Avionics.

 

But this could no doubt easily turn into a four-way or even a five-way if Arinc decides to take SKYLink commercial or should some new offering be unveiled by a T-Mobile/Lufthansa partnership (although this arrangement reportedly involves ViaSat).

 

The Ku-band saga got even more interesting last week when ViaSat announced it has teamed with Lufthansa Technik to offer “an end-to-end, ground to cabin broadband IP networking and entertainment system” for business aircraft. ViaSat will integrate its ArcLight mobile satellite technology with Lufthansa Technik’s Ethernet-based NICE cabin network to provide IP connectivity. Then ViaSat revealed it has selected AeroSat to supply the antenna technology.

 

AeroSat is already supplying the antenna for Row 44′s Ku-band solution, which will soon be tested on Boeing 737s operated by Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

 

These are all non-exclusive dating arrangements, however. Why bed down with only one partner, after all?

 

“From our perspective we’re not interested in exclusive relationships…Because we would like every service provider to be using our antenna system,” says AeroSat VP of business development William McNary.

 

Check out my latest article on the hoting up of the Ku-band antenna sector this week in Flight magazine (note to the editorially astute – for some reason the web site isn’t recognizing semi-colons so consider this when you see an apparent run-on sentence).

 

Due to page constraints, I wasn’t able to run all of ViaSat strategy director Bill Sullivan’s interesting comments. Here is a trio of the best:

“I do believe there is a great deal of interest from other international carriers and [they are] waiting to see what Lufthansa does.”

“Connexion did the in-flight broadband world a great service and in another sense, a great disservice…[Connexion] did all the work to use the Ku-band satellites and then put [the service] on the aircraft. But they had a huge fixed cost base. So when they pulled the plug, and said the business model didn’t work, that left a bad taste with travellers and airlines.”

“Because we have such a large customer base, we actually don’t need airline customers. We’d love them but we’ve already got established GA and maritime customers.”

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