Sichuan Airlines selected Viasat to provide inflight connectivity, in partnership with AeroSat Link Technology Co., Ltd. (AeroSat Link), a subsidiary of China Satellite Communications Co., Ltd. (China Satcom). The deal represents Viasat’s first connected airline customer in China and comes more than three years after the company first announced its plans to activate services in the country, and a year after it activated Ka-band satellite coverage over China.
Sichuan Airlines continuously seeks ways to enhance the onboard customer experience, and we are proud to be a part of the airline’s pioneering effort to deliver high-quality, high-speed in-flight internet within China. Today’s announcement is an exciting and meaningful milestone for our relationships with Sichuan Airlines and AeroSat Link, and we are thrilled to have Sichuan Airlines leading the way.– Don Buchman, VP and GM, Commercial Aviation, Viasat, Inc.
The partnership approach to connectivity allows each of the companies to bring its own expertise to the market, while each also maintains control of its intellectual property. For Sichuan Airlines that means a Viasat terminal installed on the aircraft , connecting to China Satcom’s Ka-band satellite network and AeroSat Link’s digital IFC services for passengers and crew. Viasat announced it had secured permission from Chinese authorities to install the hardware on A320 family aircraft in April of this year.
The combination of Viasat’s IFC equipment, China Satcom’s satellite network and AeroSat Link’s digital services will enable video streaming, internet browsing, messaging, social media, business applications and more to each connected device on these equipped aircraft. Enhancing in-flight connectivity is a key part of furthering Sichuan Airlines’ position as an industry leader in China and reflects how the carrier is embracing passenger demand for staying connected in the air, while continuing to enrich the onboard digital experience.
In a statement Sichuan Airlines notes, “Under China’s ‘smart civil aviation, digital cabin’ construction initiative, Sichuan Airlines has worked with its partners to create a unique, interconnected air-land business model of ‘satellite + aircraft + operation.’ This model is focused on resource integration, business innovation, technology empowerment, and operative efficiency. The objective is to improve airline operation efficiency and customer service quality and create an enjoyable IFC experience for passengers.”
Sichuan Airlines currently operates a fleet of more than 150 A320-family aircraft from its base in Chengdu. This deal covers an initial deployment of 15 aircraft, with potential to grow.
Growth in the Chinese IFC market has been iffy at best, particularly for domestic services. The market dominated by Panasonic Avionics for long-haul service today. On domestic or regional international routes the connectivity market is near nil. Just one airline has Ka-band service active and the success of that deployment is unclear.
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