NBAA Convention News

ViaSat takes over SkyLink from Arinc

 - October 20, 2010, 1:36 PM

ViaSat, a satellite communication network and equipment provider based in Carlsbad, Calif., announced Tuesday its acquisition of the SkyLink airborne broadband service from Arinc and the transfer of previous SkyLink business jet subscribers to ViaSat’s Yonder high-speed Internet access network.

The acquisition adds about 80 privately owned business jets to the Yonder network, which operates internationally in the Ku band of microwave energy. It also adds Ku-band spacecraft to the network’s satellite capacity. Through its preferred service partner, Satcom Direct, ViaSat has over the past few months been gradually transitioning the former SkyLink customers to the Yonder network.

Yonder service will provide former SkyLink customers the same quality of service, but with an expanded coverage area thanks to integration of the former SkyLink Ku band satellites with the Yonder network. The Yonder high-speed in-flight Internet service now spans the globe, with continuous coverage of virtually all major city pairs.

The mobile Ku band satellite network uses ViaSat technology for seamless switching between satellites as aircraft move between coverage areas, to provide near-global IP service. In the deal, ViaSat also gains access to STCs held by Arinc to facilitate installation of ViaSat Yonder-compatible VMT-1500 Ku band equipment on Boeing Business Jets (BBJ), Cessna Citation X and Challenger 604 aircraft.

ViaSat designs, manufactures, provides and operates a range of broadband aviation communication products, including airborne transceiver antennas, modems and ground station networks for military, civil government, airline and business aviation users. It is a key supplier of network-centric military communications and encryption technology and products to the U.S. government, and owns WildBlue, a primary Ka band satellite broadband service provider.

The Yonder satellite communication service, being featured this week at ViaSat’s NBAA Booth No. 6126 in Hall C, currently provides Ku band service–in the mid-super high frequency (SHF) range–to large cabin business jets as well as airline and military users. However, eyeing the near-term potential for much greater data handling capacity and transfer speeds in the higher frequency Ka band (at the bottom of the extremely high frequency (EHF) range, ViaSat and JetBlue Airways last month announced their intent to create “the industry’s best inflight broadband for commercial aviation, using ViaSat’s innovative high-capacity satellite technology.” It will start with a currently operating ViaSat WildBlue-1 Ka band satellite now serving residential customers and a higher capacity ViaSat-1 being built for ViaSat by Loral, which is due to be launched in 2011 from the Russian-operated space complex, Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Under the arrangement, by mid-2012 JetBlue’s fleet of more than 160 Embraer 190 and Airbus A320 transports is to be using the ViaSat Ka band satellites. ViaSat will provide Ka band antenna components and SurfBeam2 modems for installation on the airliners. JetBlue subsidiary LiveTV will install and lead the certification process of the new system, manage integration of the ViaSat broadband and related components onboard the aircraft and blend the Wi-Fi-enabled service into the overall cabin experience.

Bill Sullivan, ViaSat business development director, said the high-capacity Ku band service will initially propagate through the commercial airline market, military and civilian government users before beginning to enter the large cabin business jet field in the 2013-2014 timeframe. Sullivan noted that the antenna size required for Ku and Ka band operation currently limits it to the BBJ, Global Express, Gulfstream G650 and Challenger 604-605 classes of business aircraft.

He added that Inmarsat has planned to offer Ka band service through a new I-5 series of geosynchronous spacecraft beginning in 2014.