Choosing a satellite communication system to go from the plane to a satellite and back to the ground can be a tough choice, with airlines carefully considering the capacity problem that Ku could bring in the future (but giving them access to connectivity), whilst hanging on for Ka communication range for tomorrow. The trouble is, by doing nothing and sticking with some (or choosing to wait) has implications for the cabin today – and the lead time to get installs completed.
ViaSat has introduced a new antenna which hopes to address that problem with their latest dual-band system, aimed at the commercial wide-body aircraft market.
The aim of it will keep passengers and crew connected across commercial Ku- and Ka-band Geosynchronous and Non-Geosynchronous satellite networks, virtually anywhere they fly around the globe. In theory, the device can hook onto ViaSat’s global network of satellites and use Ka based connections on airline trunk routes and network, whilst falling back on to Ku based connections today in the area where Ka isn’t reaching yet. It also allows airlines to migrate from Ku to Ka networks as ViaSat’s ViaSat-3 Ka-band consolation (which is planned for launch in 2021 and 2022)
As we all know (or those of us who have used Wi-Fi in the air) its not just the speed of Wi-Fi in the air that matters – it’s also the quality of it (ie can you get a decent ping round-trip time, does a page load up consistently, do you get timeouts and so on). For airlines – the value-added proposition comes too – as well as connectivity for both on-plane systems and passengers, not only will a “fast” connection do, but a stable connection will be required.
Don Buchman, vice president and general manager, Commercial Aviation, Viasat said
“Hybrid antenna systems are not new to Viasat—we have nearly two decades of experience deploying and managing these systems,”
“Similar to the first generation, Viasat’s latest dual-band system promotes smooth transitions among multiple satellite beams across Ku- and Ka-band networks. Our next-generation Ku-/Ka-band terminal is the most capable and flexible solution for commercial wide-body aircraft—giving them a global solution today—with piece of mind that the technology deployed will be forward-compatible with the innovations in spacecraft technology of tomorrow.
Moving towards ViaSat-3
With a network growth with the ViaSat-3 network to give wider coverage, there’s work in progress in Tempe AZ to get the satellites ready, with planned coverage with the new network in over the Americas by 2021/22, with Europe and the Middle East following six months later, and Asia-Pacific by the second half of 2022.
Aggressive growth – and the tools to do it.
With the Ku spectrum filling up fast (and yes Ku is starting to get busy in the skies above us), and the continuing demands from passengers and airlines as they seek to connect the customers (as well as in-plane system), Ka will deliver coverage in the sky – and hopefully for all the users.
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