Viasat’s penchant for revealing new inflight connectivity customers during its quarterly earnings updates continues unabated, with the satellite operator and aero ISP confirming that Virgin Atlantic has selected its IFC kit for a new fleet of aircraft.
In a 4 February letter to shareholders detailing its fiscal 3Q earnings results, including a 25% year-over-year increase in revenue, Viasat stated: “We earned double digit organic revenue growth, reported Virgin Atlantic as a new inflight connectivity (IFC) customer, and continued to expand our fixed broadband presence internationally. Although COVID-19 continues to create uncertainty, the gradual re-opening of the global economy has been a tailwind, especially for our commercial IFC business.”
Runway Girl Network sought comment from Viasat about the number and type of aircraft earmarked for equipage with its IFC solution, and when installs are slated to begin. A Viasat spokesman responded: “Viasat will outfit a new fleet of aircraft the airline is purchasing. Additional details on the agreement will be shared at a later date.”
Virgin has taken a multi-vendor approach to IFC. In 2014, the carrier became the first European customer to sign for Gogo’s 2Ku IFC service (now Intelsat 2Ku). The solution was installed on the the bulk of the carrier’s then-fleet, covering all of its Airbus A330s and A340s as well as its Boeing 747s. The A340s and 747s were later retired.
Inmarsat Global Xpress (GX) is available on Virgin’s Airbus A350s, while Panasonic provides IFC to the carrier’s Boeing 787s. Virgin has outstanding orders for Airbus A330neos, for which an IFC provider has not yet been publicized. Whether these aircraft — or indeed an undisclosed new aircraft order — have been earmarked for Viasat remains to be seen. Regardless, Viasat will also find itself supporting Virgin’s A350s when it completes its acquisition of Inmarsat, which is expected to transpire by the end of this calendar year.
Coverage-wise, Viasat’s current Ka-band footprint is presently supported by its high-capacity ViaSat-1 and ViaSat-2 satellites in North America (the latter also covers transatlantic air and maritime routes to Europe) and the KA-SAT satellite in Europe, for which it has full control. The company will be able to offer global Ka coverage including in the Asia-Pacific region when it completes the build-out of its three-satellite ViaSat-3 constellation. The first ViaSat-3 satellite is now targeted to launch in late summer 2022, representing what Viasat management calls a “modest slippage” in the launch schedule due to supplier issues.
Inmarsat GX, meanwhile, is a near global constellation of Ka-band satellites, and Inmarsat has an ambitious technology roadmap. Viasat has said it intends for ViaSat-3 to ultimately be interoperable with the existing Inmarsat GX network. Until its acquisition of the London-headquartered company closes, however, Viasat and Inmarsat continue to operate as independent companies.
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Featured image credited to Viasat