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APEX Insight: With twice the capacity of ViaSat-1, ViaSat-2 promises to bring new opportunities for in-flight connectivity when it launches later this year. APEX Media was invited to see ViaSat-2 at Boeing’s El Segundo facility, where Keven Lippert, ViaSat’s executive vice-president of Corporate Development, and Mark Spiwak, president of Boeing Satellite Systems International, explained how its launch will affect the passenger experience.

ViaSat’s newest Ka-band satellite will soon be on its way from the Boeing Satellite Development Center in El Segundo, California, to the Arianespace launch pad in French Guiana. ViaSat-2 promises to bring new opportunities for in-flight connectivity, with twice the capacity of ViaSat-1, which itself had 10 times the capacity of any previous Ka-band bird.

APEX Media was recently invited to see ViaSat-2 before it heads to space. Boeing’s El Segundo facility has a rich history of building space vehicles, starting in the early 1960s with Syncom, the world’s first geo-stationary communications satellite. During our tour, we spoke with Keven Lippert, ViaSat’s executive vice-president of Corporate Development, and Mark Spiwak, president of Boeing Satellite Systems International.

What will ViaSat-2 bring to the connectivity market, and to the passenger experience?

Lippert: It’s going to bring better service to the passengers, better pricing to the airlines and better coverage. With ViaSat-2, we’re expanding the footprint so that we’ll have North Atlantic coverage, which is important, given the number of routes both for commercial airlines and government users that are going between North America and Europe. ViaSat-2 will also cover the Caribbean, with coverage into Central America, as well as starting our expansion down to South America.

“With ViaSat-2, we’re expanding the footprint so that we’ll have North Atlantic coverage.” — Keven Lippert, ViaSat

How does ViaSat’s relationship with France-based Eutelsat enhance the service?

Lippert: Passengers will have continuous coverage between North America and Europe. There will be handoffs between satellites, but it’ll be seamless. Even though it’s a Eutelsat satellite, they’re our partner, and it’s essentially the same operational system.

It seems that in-flight connectivity is reaching a “tipping point” in capability. What has driven the recent and upcoming improvements in service?

Spiwak: There have been advancements in satellite technology, advancements in your personal device’s technology and advancements in the antennas that go on the aircraft. From a satellite manufacturer’s standpoint, we’re seeing quite a number of our customers positioning their business to take advantage of the aero-connectivity market. We at Boeing are in a very fortunate position to be able to develop the technology, and then as consumers, take advantage of it. And that’s really cool.

“We at Boeing are in a very fortunate position to be able to develop the technology, and then as consumers, take advantage of it. And that’s really cool.” — Mark Spiwak, Boeing Satellite Systems International

How do Boeing Commercial Airplanes and Boeing Satellite Systems International work together?

Spiwak: We take great measures to work as one integrated Boeing, whatever our customers may want. If our customer says “I want to do aero-connectivity, Mark, what about airplanes, what about satellites, what about antennas,” we can have that one Boeing solution that we hope will bring the best of the industry forward to enable our customer’s business.

Howard has been passionate about aviation since he was a little kid, and is a pilot who loves to fly gliders and just about anything else with wings. He's a frequent contributor to aviation magazines and blogs.