Viasat sees airlines solving the price and speed connectivity pain points


Viasat is at APEX/IFSA EXPO this year looking ahead to the launch of Viasat-3,  a global satellite constellation consisting of three high-capacity Ka-band satellites designed to increase the coverage and capacity of our network to bring high-quality, low-cost connectivity to customers.

We sat down with Don Buchman, VP and GM of Commercial Aviation to find out more about how the company sees in-flight connectivity changing.

From the passenger’s point of view, getting online while in-flight to consume entertainment, check emails or do work can be expensive. Having to pay a $30+ charge on a long haul flight, while not being sure of the speed you are going to get for that price, is still an all too common experience.

Viasat’s Don Buchman sees a near term future where both those pain points – speed and cost – will be overcome.

In a discussion with APEX Media, Don Buchman mentioned the case of some customer airlines such as JetBlue, which have made connectivity free or almost free.  And he talked about scope to build loyalty and capture data or even build ancillary revenues in exchange for giving passengers the opportunity to go online.

One example, according to Don Buchman is the potential for airlines to ask customers join the airline loyalty program in exchange for free or heavily discounted Internet.  

This is of course already the norm for hotels (e.g joining Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honors will often give you in-room Internet access), and this practice could become common for airlines as well.  

Or, you might get free Internet by watching an ad. Don Buchman also talked of a situation where inflight connectivity could be sponsored by an entertainment or Internet company.  The result would be a win-win-win. Partners would have access to an airline’s passengers, airlines could gain extra revenue, and for passengers’ themselves the in-flight experience would be enhanced thanks to the ability to go online.

As a result, the overall trend according to Don Buchman is that “we’re probably going to hit the curve of this shift to free. I think everyone’s been kind of watching the others but as soon as one big player moves, the others will follow.”

Recent Viasat customer announcements include Virgin Atlantic, which intends to use Viasat’s IFC system on its new Airbus A350-900 aircraft.

The Viasat IFC equipment is being factory-installed (“linefit”) on the 16 new Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-900s at the Airbus Center of Excellence production site in Toulouse, France, ensuring in-flight internet service is available on each aircraft upon delivery. 

When Viasat 3 comes on stream, it ​​ is expected to boost Viasat’s total capacity by approximately 600%. 

Viasat is at APEX/IFSA EXPO at stand 508