Viasat added a major boost to its Ka-band network this week, activating connectivity over China. The capacity, first announced in early 2019, is made available through a partnership with China Satcom and the ChinaSat-16 satellite.
Working with China Satcom, we have achieved a great milestone— delivering strong customer performance gains in terms of network speed and reliability at any phase of a flight, which provides an on-the-ground internet experience even when in-flight.– Don Buchman, Viasat’s vice president and general manager, Commercial Aviation
The partnership with China Satcom allows Viasat to provide connectivity on routes that overfly China, as well as those to, from, or wholly within the country. El Al’s service between Hong Kong and Tel Aviv could potentially take advantage of the new systems. American Airlines could also potentially use the service if its newer 787-8 fleet operates to China when those routes resume.
Perhaps more significant, however, is the opportunity for Viasat to expand its presence in the region directly with Chinese airlines. That is a 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.
Building a brand in China
The new entrant may bring a great product offering, but that is not always enough to ensure success in China.
With the new network active Viasat could potentially begin selling directly to the Chinese airlines. Success in that market is typically built over years of presence and partnerships, however. Moreover, the geopolitical challenges with establishing in-flight connectivity on domestic Chinese carriers should not be underestimated. Many have tried over the years. None can claim unmitigated success.
Viasat pitches the potential for “streaming videos or music, browsing the internet, access to social media, messaging and other apps — just as they do in many other regions of the world.” This is counter to the previously presumed key use cases of in-flight commerce and localized content for passengers. That typical internet usage in China also differs from that across other regions of the world should also skew the connectivity potential.
A favor to ask while you're here...
Did you enjoy the content? Or learn something useful? Or generally just think this is the type of story you'd like to see more of? Consider supporting the site through a donation (any amount helps). It helps keep me independent and avoiding the credit card schlock.