Image: Maxim Sergienko

It’s been over a year since Viasat-2 went into service, bringing seamless Ka-band connectivity to the North Atlantic and the Caribbean. Passengers on El Al and Neos airlines are enjoying the benefits of capability of the world’s most powerful communication satellite, with La Compagnie’s jetliners soon to be connected.

But Viasat-2’s Ka-band footprint has its limitations, according to Don Buchman, vice-president and general manager, Commercial Aviation, Viasat. “Anywhere from North America to Europe and the Middle East is covered. We can do LA to Istanbul, but we can’t do Istanbul to Beijing,” he said.

To cover the rest of the globe, Viasat has unveiled its second-generation dual-band Ka/Ku system which includes an advanced hybrid antenna and radome. Targeting wide-body, long-range aircraft, the new antenna system leverages Viasat’s decades of experience with hybrid systems.

Kukarray

Viasat’s second-generation dual-band Ka/Ku system. Image via Viasat

When an aircraft flies outside of Viasat-2’s Ka-band coverage, the system will automatically switch to a Ku-band connection, utilizing satellites that are part of Viasat’s global network.Buchman explained that the combination of Ka- and Ku-band service supports Viasat’s global-service strategy, with an eye to the introduction of the 1-terabit class, Ka-band Viasat-3 satellites. Planned for launch beginning in 2021, the first two birds will service the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa, with a third satellite covering Asia Pacific.

And while the capability of the upcoming Viasat-3 constellation will far exceed any satellites in service or planned for orbit, Buchman says he’s moved beyond quoting numbers.

“I could demonstrate 500MB or a gigabit today if I wanted to, but what’s the purpose of that to one user. What I’d rather do is have the 1,300 aircraft we have, all flying, and demonstrating a great user experience.”