ViaSat expects to sign additional fleet expansion contracts with existing airline customers over the coming months, and suggests its launch customer for the upcoming ViaSat-3 constellation could come from that pool.



Pointing to American Airlines’ decision last year to extend its existing ViaSat contract for narrowbody aircraft to include 100 new Airbus A321Neos – and United Airlines’ extended agreement to install the satellite company’s Ka-band in-flight connectivity service on an additional 70 aircraft – ViaSat appears confident that similar extensions will ensue.

The equipment installed on both US majors’ fleets can tap into ViaSat’s current ViaSat-1 and ViaSat-2 constellations, but will also be able to communicate with the newest ViaSat-3 constellation when it enters service in the 2020/21 timeframe.

“We kind of think already have launch customers [for ViaSat-3],” says Don Buchman, vice-president and general manager of ViaSat’s commercial aviation business, adding that Italian leisure carrier Neos opted to install ViaSat’s current connectivity service on its Boeing 787s “with ViaSat-3 in mind”.

The first ViaSat-3 satellite, covering the Americas, is due to launch in 2020 or 2021, with the second, covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa, set to follow six months later. The third and final satellite will launch in the second half of 2022 and will provide coverage over the Asia-Pacific region.

ViaSat’s system is now installed on “around 550” aircraft, says Buchman, and 2018 was “a big year for getting installs done”. The company now wants to help accelerate the drive toward free in-flight wi-fi, through sponsorship deals similar to American Airlines’ agreement with Apple to provide free onboard access to Apple Music.

“We’re going to see a lot more sponsorships and you’ll be seeing a lot of activity from us. There are going to be a lot of different solutions across a lot of different airlines and you need good wi-fi to do that. That’s why Apple went with us,” says Buchman.

“Even on the same plane you could have multiple sponsors, but you have to be clever about it. It’s really about matching up passengers on airlines with the brands they interact with on the ground.”

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Source: Flight Daily News