Access to Russia is critical when it comes to delivering satellite connectivity on a global basis. Viasat took a large step forward on that front this week, announcing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Gazprom Satellite Services (GSS) to secure satellite capacity and access to the market via TMC’s telecom license. Under the deal the three will explore how they can each leverage their key resources to jointly meet growing customer demand.
Our MOU with GSS and TMC is an important next step in establishing a global IFC roaming alliance that will ensure airlines have access to uninterrupted, feature-rich IFC services when flying into and over Russia.– Keven Lippert, Viasat’s Chief Commercial Officer
Growing into the Russian domestic market
The MOU opens up potential for bringing the Viasat in-flight connectivity offering on board Russian airlines, both in their domestic and foreign operations. To date that market remains lightly served.
Transaero carried the Global Eagle offering when it was still in business. Aeroflot equipped its long-haul aircraft with the SITAONAIR SwiftBroadband solution. But the short-haul fleet remains mostly offline.
Aeroflot announced plans in 2018 to serve as the pilot customer for a cooperative effort between SES and Sputnik Telecommunications Entertainment Company (STECCOM). The deal saw aircraft fitted early in the year and planned to go live by mid-2018 with the carrier’s full A320 family fleet online by 2019. That did not come to pass, though the carrier does have the STECCOM system online on its first A350 delivery. Presumably it will also fly on future A350 deliveries.
But the carrier could, with Viasat entering the market, also consider that as a viable option for its short-haul fleet. Whether just acting as the on-board integrator reselling GSS capacity or layering in the ViaSat-3 offering as well, the company appears keen to add Russian customers. Viasat’s Chief Commercial Officer Keven Lippert explains, “Over the longer term it allows Russian airlines, which we’re also obviously interested in pursuing together [with Gazprom], access to our network as they as they go outside of Russia. And they view us as being the global leader in that area.”
That could also come via enterprise or energy sector connectivity its recent acquisition of RigNet. Adding Viasat connectivity to the country’s rail service was also mentioned in the release and again by Lippert in later conversations.
Ku first, Ka later
Lippert confirmed to PaxEx.Aero that the Ku-band capacity will be an important part of the partnership, as will the overall GSS satellite portfolio, “We’re really aiming for seamless global coverage for our commercial air customers and making sure that they have access to sort of high speed, high quality service, which really requires high capacity satellites.”
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