Michael Weinhoffer/Staff Reporter
On Feb. 8, Viasat, a global satellite communications company based in Carlsbad, California, announced the signing of a new contract with United Airlines to equip seventy aircraft with the latest generation of in-flight connectivity and entertainment systems. At least fifty-eight of these aircraft will be 737 MAX 9s and 10s, which will be delivered starting in 2018 and 2020, respectively. The result of this contract will be significantly faster in-flight Internet speeds for United customers, which will increase customer satisfaction. This is all thanks to some of the most powerful and capable satellites ever built.
In-flight connectivity is the main specialty of Viasat apart from establishing satellite-based broadband Internet services. Viasat provides these services through the use of high throughput satellites, which essentially have twice or more the processing capacity of ordinary geostationary satellites. High-throughput satellites are the most advanced satellites to date, and Viasat launched one of the first, Viasat-1, in 2011. Viasat-1 is one of the most powerful in the world, with the capability to process 140 gigabits per second. In 2017, Viasat beat its own record by launching ViaSat-2, with a processing power of 300 gigabits per second! ViaSat-2 is a very large and expensive satellite; after factoring in supporting ground infrastructure and launch services, the project cost a whopping $624 million! Better still, the company is planning to launch three ViaSat-3 satellites in 2019, 2020, and 2021. These three satellites will cover the entire world, and each have a processing capacity of 1 terabit per second. The brand-new Falcon Heavy will get the opportunity to launch the second satellite of the class in 2020. Hopefully, this summary gave a good perspective on the capabilities of these satellites, which will be used to improve the customer experience on United Airlines.
In-flight connectivity has become almost expected for most flights, especially international flights. Viasat’s latest generation system will allow for fast and reliable access to websites, email accounts, movies, TV shows, and more all from your seat. All Viasat satellites will be used to bring this system to United customers, which will eventually result in connectivity on any United flight around the world. Pricing information is not available at this time, but hopefully all customers will be able to access the personal entertainment systems in-flight. This luxury service is free of charge, with Wi-Fi access available for purchase by credit card or MileagePlus miles. An official announcement from United with more information will likely come in the next few months, with configuration of the systems occurring this year.
Don Buchman, Vice President of Commercial Aviation for Viasat, stated, “We’re pleased to expand our relationship with United, now providing direct internet and entertainment services to them and their customers. We’re focused on optimizing customer satisfaction through great connectivity and entertainment. Our goal is to ensure United’s customers are fully connected and enjoying their onboard connectivity and entertainment experiences.” United Airlines will soon be using the most powerful satellites in the world to improve the experiences of their customers. Look out for this new system coming to United Airlines soon!