June 6, 2016
Satellite provider ViaSat has signed an exclusivity agreement to provide in-flight wifi connectivity to a new fleet of American Airlines (AA) planes.
Harnessing the bandwidth capabilities of the Ka band, which covers the 26.5-40 GHz frequencies, ViaSat says AA customers using in-flight wifi services on new Boeing 737 MAX planes will be able to stream video, upload and share images – a luxury ill afforded with most existing in-flight wifi offerings today. Recent research conducted by rival satellite player Inmarsat saw 92% of 9,000 passengers say they wanted connectivity on board, and 54% said they’d rather have wifi on board than any other service.
Earlier this year the satellite provider said it will be launching the ViaSat-3 platform; which, by using three satellites on the Ka band, will be able to deliver 100Mbps superfast broadband across the world, even in the most rural areas. ViaSat-3 is not scheduled to launch until 2019, but until that point AA will be utilising its existing ViaSat-1 and 2 flavours. ViaSat says AA will be using the ViaSat-3 system as soon as it becomes available.
“Our satellite bandwidth enables an ‘at home’ internet experience that can serve everyone on the plane – and empowers innovative business models for airlines and their passengers,” said Mark Danberg, ViaSat’s CEO. “We are delighted and honoured to have the opportunity to work with American Airlines and help fulfil their goal of delivering the best in-flight Wi-Fi experience throughout their fleet. We believe we are now approaching the end of an era where passengers have paid very high prices for very slow connections. Our agreement highlights a significant initial step for American to deliver an onboard Wi-Fi experience every passenger will want to use.”
Danberg’s closing comment could be seen as subtle dig at competing in-flight wifi provider Gogo, which was the previous holder of the tender and previously held a firm grip on supplying connectivity to AA’s fleets.
The first ViaSat-connected AA planes are scheduled to take off in September 2017.
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