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ViaSat unveils VIP vision

7th October 2008 - 01:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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VIASAT looms ever larger in the connectivity firmament. The Californian satcoms equipment manufacturer with big aeronautical service ambitions has just announced deals with Lufthansa Technik and US antenna specialist AeroSat that plant it squarely in the middle of the sector that is taking up air-to-ground broadband most eagerly – corporate and VIP aviation.

The company, which supplies equipment and satellite services to support the ARINC SKYLink Ku-band offering to business aviation, is to integrate its ArcLight mobile satellite technology with Lufthansa Technik’s Ethernet-based NICE cabin network to provide IP connectivity between the ground and every seat and suitable device in NICE-equipped aircraft. It has also called on AeroSat, which makes the antenna currently used by aspiring airline Ku-band provider Row 44, to help develop a Ku-band terminal optimised for VIP aircraft.      

NICE is standard on the Bombardier Challenger 300 mid-size business jet. It is also being installed on four Global Expresses and is operational on a number of narrowbody and widebody VIP aircraft. The partners intend that in combination with ViaSat’s broadband capability it will deliver to passengers IP-based entertainment, productivity and Internet access services comparable with the best available on the ground.

Among them will be a ViaSat service allowing travellers to view home TV channels and video library selections on the aircraft. “We want any seat on the aircraft to truly become part of the passenger’s office network or home theatre,” says ViaSat mobile broadband systems director Don Buchman.

Linking NICE and the satellite network will be a new terminal incorporating antenna technology from New Hampshire-based AeroSat. The VMT-1560 terminal is designed for the Airbus and Boeing families of VIP aircraft, which range from the narrowbody ACJs and BBJs up to conversions of the A350 and A380 and 747-8 and 787. AeroSat is contributing its HR6400 antenna and RF subsystem. 

ViaSat says VMT-1560 will offer data throughput in the 768kbit/sec-2Mbit/sec range to support email, VoIP, Web and VPN access, and the new television service. The system comprises the antenna, radome, attachment ring, antenna control unit, high-power transceiver and integrated modem/router.

ViaSat intends to see the system providing connectivity over a worldwide network from the end of next year. The company already has ArcLight networks serving aviation and maritime customers, including the operators of the 80 aircraft using ARINC’s SKYLink, in North America, the Caribbean, the North Atlantic and Europe. It is working with maritime broadband service provider KVH Industries to expand coverage region-by-region, with the North Pacific to be added this December and Japan and South-east Asia to follow shortly afterwards.

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