Since the announcement of Viasat‘s new Ku/Ka dual band antenna solution at Aircraft Interiors Expo in 2019 the question has been not if the product will fly, but when. Executives made that clear during the event in April and in follow-up conversations at the end of 2020. At a briefing in the company’s Carlsbad headquarters last week President and COO Rick Baldridge provided some additional insight into the motivation for the project as well as hints at the deployment timing. Most notably his declaration, “We’re actually installing.”
Viasat sees the Ku/Ka offering filling several roles in the inflight connectivity world. While Baldridge still sees it “mainly a stop gap” until ViaSat-3 delivers global coverage he also sees other potential for the offering.
There’s a bunch of Ku-band satellites up there, so you can think of it as delivering a backup network. Also, in the long run as we migrate towards different types of antennas it can also be dual use with LEOs/GEOs.
This is not the first Ku/Ka effort from Viasat. The company installed its offering on several Virgin America A320 family aircraft shortly before the Alaska Airlines merger. But those are gone and the newer antenna/modem hardware delivers improved performance and better interoperability for airlines.
Getting the ViaSat-3 network online remains several years away, especially for coverage into Asia. But that doesn’t mean those markets are closed to Viasat. Two airlines in particular seem likely candidates for the Ku/Ka option
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Also worth noting is that Viasat is not alone in this approach to the inflight connectivity market. Saudi Arabia’s UON by Taqnia Space also uses a Ku/Ka approach for long-haul markets outside the region where it has Ka-band coverage on its own satellites.