Many of our residential subscribers have been asking about service from our new ViaSat-2 satellite and whether they’ll need new equipment if they upgrade.
For starters, not all upgraded plans require a move to the new satellite. We now operate four satellites, and we use all of them to serve our customers. As we add customers to the newest one, that’ll free up capacity on our other satellites, enabling us to offer more robust plans on them as well. If the plan you want happens to be on our ViaSat-1 satellite, for example, you may not need a service call to install new equipment if you have an old Exede plan.
If your upgrade does entail service from the new satellite, here’s a rundown of what it’d look like.
Service from ViaSat-2 will require the installation of new equipment at your home. A technician will come to you to take care of this — it’s not a DIY thing.
The antenna installed on your home or business — commonly referred to as “the dish,” is actually made up of several different pieces of equipment. One piece is simply the bracket that attaches to your house, and it will remain the same. The reflector dish with our logo on it is the same as well, although the technician may swap this out with a new one depending on the condition of your old one. All the cabling run through exterior walls should stay the same.
The real change on the outside is the small metal box attached to the end of the arm in front of the dish. The “transmit and receive integrated assembly” (or “TRIA”) manages the signals to and from our satellites to the modem in your home. A TRIA is essentially a powerful radio, but one that’s specifically designed to talk with satellites.
You might notice our new, higher-speed TRIA is larger than the old one, and that has to do with improved, all-digital performance as well as the integration of some of the electronics that used to be housed in the modem or gateway (inside). The benefit to customers here is that, in the event of a service call, there’s a better chance the technician can take care of things without ever needing to enter your home.
Because the ViaSat-2 satellite is in a different area of the sky than ViaSat-1, the technician will also repoint the dish assembly to align with the new satellite.
Inside your home or office, we’ll install our all-new WiFi Gateway if you’re moving to the new satellite. Similar to our previous WiFi Modem, this new one combines a modem that communicates with your TRIA outside and a wireless router that powers your home Wi-Fi network.
The new WiFi Gateway is designed to optimize both cooling efficiency and provide better wireless signal coverage throughout your home or office. These features are important: Many of the calls we get from customers having service trouble are actually related to the Wi-Fi signal. As you may have already learned, not all Wi-Fi connections are the same, so providing the strongest possible signal where you (or your TV) wants to be is what our new gateway aims to do.
The triangular design of the gateway provides more space to vent heat than a traditional gateway, and the wider footprint gives enough room inside to position the internal antennas for optimal reach. The combined result is a more reliable, higher-speed connection available over the widest possible area.
The WiFi Gateway runs the latest 802.11ac (or “AC”) Wi-Fi protocol. Wi-Fi protocols have evolved over the years, from “B” to “G” to “N” and now to AC, with speed and coverage improving with each version. The AC protocol provides the fastest Wi-Fi speeds available today, accomplished in part because it transmits in the 5 GHz frequency band. The 5 GHz frequency band tends to provide higher speeds because there’s less interference from other radio signals. However, signals in the 5 GHz band don’t reach quite as far as 2.4 GHz, and have a harder time penetrating walls and floors. So, it can be a bit of a trade-off: higher speeds, closer to the Wi-Fi router, or better signal strength father away from the router.
Better router for better service
The good news is that the new Viasat WiFi Gateway has a “concurrent dual-band” router, which means it’s always broadcasting in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. You can easily switch between bands at any time and may even notice that your devices will switch to the optimal band on their own. This functionality allows you to optimize your device’s Wi-Fi connection based on your location in relation to the router. Because the gateway is communicating on the two bands at the same time, each band uses a different Wi-Fi network ID (known as a Service Set ID, or “SSID”), so you might name them “SmithWiFi_24” and “SmithWiFi_5” to differentiate between them.
The WiFi Gateway also contains a standard phone jack and all the internal electronics needed to use our VoIP phone service. If you ever decide you want a VoIP landline, all you have to do is give us a call to activate service and then plug a phone into the gateway.
Finally, the WiFi Gateway has a couple of extra Ethernet ports on the back. These can come in handy if you want to connect a peripheral device like a printer or DVR to your network — or if you just want to hard-wire your router to your main computer. The USB ports aren’t currently enabled for external storage or other data transfer, but they are powered, so you can use them to charge devices that use a USB charging cable.
If you’re like most of our customers, you’re not as concerned with all of this technical detail and simply want your service to work as well as possible. We provide this information as background for those who might be interested a bit more in “what’s under the hood.”