Top 3 ways airlines can deliver the best Wi-Fi in the sky

Satellite service from Viasat uses the latest technology to make in-flight Wi-Fi great

Viasat is a company built on engineering innovation, and the belief that everyone in the world can be connected — even when flying at 35,000 feet. We have a passion for optimizing wavelength frequencies and network efficiencies to offer the best service possible to our customers. And while we’re proud of the groundbreaking technologies that make this all possible, our goal is pretty simple: deliver top service quality, support and reliability to our customers and their end-users. It’s this vision that has led us to deliver what we believe — and third parties have validated — is the best Wi-Fi in the sky.

So how do we do it? For starters, we take an integrated systems approach to broadband delivery. Unlike other providers that rely on third-party vendors for much of their connectivity, we design and build our own high-performing, high-capacity satellites. We also build our own ground infrastructure — the large antenna gateways and cloud-based networks that connect the satellite to the internet. To complete the integration, we also build most of our customer premise equipment — everything from satellite antennas to the modems.

To support all of this, we have our own highly trained network operations staff monitor everything 24/7, every day of the year. This end-to-end offering delivers real and measurable benefits to our customers – whether on the ground, in the air or at sea.

When looking at the experience we deliver in the air, we optimize nearly every connection to ensure fast, reliable internet service, not just to please engineers, but to benefit end users. As an example, sites like highspeedinternet.com, in a recent post, hailed our customer JetBlue as offering “the best overall in-flight Wi-Fi for personal travel.” The article specifically called-out JetBlue as the only airline in America that offers free in-flight Wi-Fi – and at the highest speeds.

So how do we work with airlines to bring the best Wi-Fi to the skies? We’re focused on three things:

In-flight Wi-Fi — what used to be a novelty — is becoming a must for airlines. Passengers are demanding better service of the kind offered by Viasat.

1.     Make it fast.

Viasat is investing heavily in what are expected to be the fastest broadband satellites ever built — ViaSat-2, which comes online in 2018 — and our ViaSat-3 constellation, currently under construction. Each ViaSat-3 satellite will have at least 1 terabit per second capacity — more than all current internet satellites combined! Capacity and coverage ensure that passengers on global fleets have a great experience, and also that operational applications (such as EFB and fleet monitoring) have reliable connectivity wherever the aircraft is.

Airline passengers really notice our capacity advantage when they’re still on the ground at the airport. With hundreds if not thousands of passengers looking to get online, only a provider like Viasat with enough capacity to serve all of these end-users is going to make the grade. For business passengers looking to maximize their time in the air, this kind of speed is essential. (Here’s a helpful article on how to stay productive online in the air.)

2.     Make it affordable

People expect easy access to quality Wi-Fi wherever they go, so it stands to reason that airlines who bet on more people using the service will have a big advantage over competitors. JetBlue, which offers the service for free, has more passengers using Wi-Fi in their planes than any other airline.

To make fast, reliable Wi-Fi available to all passengers on a plane, airlines need a partner like Viasat that can provide affordable bandwidth. When we say we optimize our network, it’s not just a marketing phrase. Satellite networks don’t come cheap, but our long experience in the industry has enabled us to discover a variety of innovative ways to get the most bandwidth for the lowest price out of our satellites. We call this “bandwidth economics,” and it’s a big reason why Viasat is becoming the smart airlines’ first choice for in-flight Wi-Fi.

In addition, Viasat’s business model for airlines helps offset the cost with integrated marketing partnerships and sponsorships, to reduce or eliminate the connectivity cost that airlines can charge end users.

3.     Make it great

Being online in the air isn’t much use (or fun) if the service isn’t up to par, and that’s unfortunately been the case for many of Viasat’s competitors that are trying to compete on in-flight Wi-Fi. Viasat got into this business because we knew we had a better way to offer a great experience. We too have been frustrated by slow, expensive and unreliable in-flight internet. Our engineers knew there had to be a better way. So they built it.

Many airlines are moving past seatback screen investments to cloud-based systems that allow passengers to watch content on their own devices. This shift means these airlines need an in-flight Wi-Fi system that can handle bandwidth-hungry applications such as Netflix and Hulu streaming, video conferencing, and live TV (with multiple, concurrent sessions). This kind of robust service, comparable to what people expect on the ground, can only be delivered by a high-capacity, optimized network such as ours. And, with the entire aviation industry now facing higher jet fuel costs, a BYOD (bring your own device) model helps airlines to drive down CASM (cost per available seat mile), while boosting RASM (revenue per available seat mile).

Viasat offers service that works gate-to-gate for passengers, while also giving the crew new tools for air-to-ground communication that help them provide a better, safer experience in the air. Our embedded software makes getting online easy for passengers and crew, with a wireless in-flight entertainment platform we think is the best in the business. Because we build the software that brings our connectivity to life, airlines can trust us to work with them to integrate with their existing apps and to develop future requirements, always ensuring the best possible passenger and crew experience. We also make it easy for airlines to generate user analytics, enabling more data-driven decision-making. Our apps for flight crew are designed to meet the same high standards in ease-of-use, user experience and reliability.

Finally, what makes for a great IFC service is one backed by a company that has its eye on constant improvement. The recent launch of our powerful ViaSat-2 satellite will give us the capacity we need over much of North America, as well as across the Atlantic to Europe, Central America and the Caribbean. Just around the corner is our ViaSat-3 constellation of satellites that will cover most of the globe. No other company has this kind of forward-looking plan, and it’s tailor-made for airlines looking to secure the best in-flight Wi-Fi well into the future.

Viasat’s aim is to provide leadership and clarity in what can be a confusing space. Airlines shouldn’t have to worry that they’ll make “the wrong bet” on their internet provider. They should be confident that the technology meets operational and passenger needs, is future-proof, and that the service delivered to passengers can be fast, free and great.

Learn more

Explore Viasat services for commercial aviation.

Sean Walsh
About Sean Walsh 3 Articles
Sean Walsh is marketing manager for Commercial Aviation at Viasat. Based out of Dublin, Ireland, he helps to spread Viasat’s message to connect the world and how passengers can experience everything they love to do on the ground via internet while they fly.