U.S. satcom network operator and service provider Viasat announced at EBACE 2019 it had received supplemental type certificate (STC) approval from the FAA for its Ka-band connectivity system, the Global Aero Terminal (GAT) 5510, for installation on super-midsize business jets. Calling it “the most compact business aviation internet system on the market,” Viasat said it is the first Ka-band system that can be installed on an airframe smaller than a large-cabin jet.
“Receiving STC approval for our flagship Ka-band business aviation shipset marks the first key milestone required to deliver our high-speed, high-value Ka-band in-flight internet system to customers, fractional operators, and partners,” said Viasat business area director for business aviation Claudio D’Amico. Delivering up to 16 Mbps speed to both cabin and cockpit, the GAT 5510 enables multi-site video conference calling, access to corporate VPN connections and e-mail, streaming bandwidth-intensive videos, and other services on the ground and in all flight phases. Viasat is demonstrating the system, uplinked to the network, at its booth (O107) this week at EBACE 2019.
At last year’s gathering in Geneva, Embraer signed on as the first OEM to offer the system as a line-fit option, and the Praetor 600 it has on static display this year is equipped with a GAT 5510. More than half of Embraer's Praetor 600 customers are choosing the option, Viasat said. “We have a dozen more models in the hopper” for certification, said Viasat director of global business development James Person. “So by the end of 2019 we’ll be on at least 12 more platforms,” spanning Bombardiers, Dassault Falcons, and Gulfstreams, as line-fit options or aftermarket installations, the latter available through a network of authorized dealers.
The terminal currently taps into Viasat’s ViaSat-1, ViaSat-2, and European KA-SAT satellite platforms, providing coverage over North and Central America, the Caribbean, the North Atlantic flight tracks, and Europe. Multiple data plans are available, allowing operators to select one that best suits their needs in terms of regional coverage and/or data needs.
Viasat-3, its next-generation service, will provide global coverage beginning in 2021 via the three satellites in geosynchronous orbit. In the interim, Viasat will leverage capacity on partner Ka-band satellite networks to expand current coverage. The company also provides near global internet access when combined with its Ku-band advanced internet. This lower cost Ku-band service, delivering speeds of up to 6 Mbps, can be a great alternative to Ka-band for installation in older aircraft, Person said.
Viasat launches and operates its own satellite network, as well as selling its data plans, the vertical integration providing several benefits. “We design the satellites and we design the shipset hardware, so that allows us to optimize the two to work together,” said Person. “We can make our hardware faster in the future because the satellites will improve. So when Viasat-3 goes into service in a couple of years then we’ll be able to double our speed to 32 megabits per second to the aircraft.”
Meanwhile, the company is developing a flat-panel antenna that, once on the market within the next five years, will bring high-speed access capability down to light jets and small aircraft. As for coming constellations of low earth orbit satellites, “What we’ve seen so far, the economics doesn’t make sense for aviation,” said Person, considering the costs of launching them.