ViaSat is extending the availability of its cabin and cockpit connectivity solutions for business aircraft through new partnerships with other communications systems providers. Here at the EBACE show this week, the California-based company is announcing the integration of its VMT-1500 satellite connectivity system and Yonder Internet service with ICG’s new cabin router and NxtLink series transceivers to connect aircraft via the Iridium satellite network. In a separate new alliance, ViaSat and Satcom Direct have agreed to integrate Yonder with Satcom Direct’s new Satcom Direct Router (SDR).
With demand for high-performance inflight connectivity rising among business aircraft users, operators, completions centers and OEMs can find it hard to make sense of the various options and ensure that they are delivering the best available technology in a cost-effective way. The task of ensuring sufficient connectivity for the various cockpit communications, inflight entertainment and cabin management functions is now being handled by more complex IP networks, and this is a new phenomenon in aviation. “What we are looking to do is to take some of the guesswork out of integrating and installing networks and reducing the risk that once installed it will [not] work,” explained ViaSat Global Satcom business development lead Steve Sivitz.
The Yonder Internet service is already installed on 400 private and government aircraft worldwide and uses the compact and lightweight VMT-1500 Ku-band terminal. The equipment can also connect on the ground and is available through all phases of flight, with no service limits below 10,000 feet.
In addition to cabin and cockpit communications functions, the combination of ICG’s FANS-over-Iridium system and its eRouter can handle the datalink requirements needed to fly using CPDLC and ADS-C on transoceanic sectors. ICG currently has around 750 NxtLink satcom transceivers installed worldwide.
Under the new agreement with Satcom Direct, ViaSat’s Yonder service will be integrated with the new SDR, which is Satcom Direct’s first hardware product. The router can manage all aircraft voice and data systems, allowing multiple systems to operate simultaneously without additional wireless access points and allowing for separate guest or VVIP networks. According to Satcom Direct, the new equipment provides higher bandwidth to the cabin through advanced compression and acceleration technology.
“With so many devices needing connection to the aircraft networks, it is hard to keep up with all the system requirements, and a lot of [existing] aircraft networks are not being well designed,” Sivitz told AIN. “So we are collaborating [with ICG and Satcom Direct] to integrate the systems components and provide a reference design [for the networks] that will give the operator a high probability of a successful installation and assured levels of performance.”
The extended partnerships with Satcom Direct and ICG are not exclusive in that ViaSat is eager to work as a neutral partner with other system providers. Satcom Direct is one of three existing Yonder resellers, with the other two being Arinc Direct and Satcom1. Yonder is based on fixed monthly fees that allow operators to accurately budget for the service.
According to Sivitz, ViaSat (Booth 5243) seeks to differentiate itself from other communications providers by ensuring that the end user is assured a consistently good experience, regardless of the device they use to connect. Also important, in his view, are providing access to different applications and services and guaranteeing the integrity of the software used by providing upgrades and fixes for bugs. The company also has a strong background in providing data security.