Chinese operator Sichuan Airlines has selected Viasat’s high-speed inflight connectivity solution for installation on 15 Airbus A320 family aircraft. The first aircraft has already been fitted.
When in service, the Viasat terminal installed on Sichuan’s A320s will connect to satellite operator China Satcom’s ChinaSat-16 Ka-band satellite and China Satcom subsidiary AeroSat Link’s digital inflight connectivity service, ensuring that both passengers and crew are connected. The latter use case is expected to glean operational benefits for the airline.
“The combination of Viasat’s IFC equipment, China Satcom’s satellite network and AeroSat Link’s digital services will enable video streaming, Internet browsing, messaging, social media, business applications and more to each connected device on these equipped aircraft,” explains Viasat in a statement.
“Enhancing inflight connectivity is a key part of furthering Sichuan Airlines’ position as an industry leader in China and reflects how the carrier is embracing passenger demand for staying connected in the air, while continuing to enrich the onboard digital experience.”
For years, Viasat has been laying the groundwork in China to support high-speed inflight connectivity at Chinese airlines, including by forging key agreements with Chinese technology providers.
In 2019, the satellite operator and aero ISP inked a strategic partnership with China Satcom to jointly provide IFC services within China for domestic and international airlines. China favors the partnership approach for its own homegrown players .
Last year, that China Satcom Ka-band network — which is supported by the ChinaSat-16 satellite system, with good coverage over mainland China — became operational. Then, this spring, Viasat was awarded a Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) Validation of Supplemental Type Certificate (VSTC) to install its complete Ka-band satellite system on A320 series aircraft. The VSTC was awarded based on an A320 STC previously certified by EASA.
With these relationships and approvals in place, Viasat snagged Sichuan Airlines as a customer with an order covering an initial 15 tails. Pictured above, the first aircraft has already been installed with Viasat’s kit.
Given that most of China’s domestic fleet is still not fitted with live inflight connectivity, Viasat appears well-positioned to secure business with more Chinese operators. Viasat vice president and GM, commercial aviation, Don Buchman previously told RGN that ChinaSat-16 is “going to serve 80% of the flight routes in China. It’s going to serve any international customers that we assigned that want to have access to China when they fly in, say from North America. And so, for the future business that we see, it’s going to serve our needs and you know, we expect to have more capacity going online.”
RGN sought color as to whether IFC will be offered on any international flights flown by Sichuan Airlines, outside of the mainland, and if so, whether the system on the carrier’s A320s will be able to talk to the forthcoming ViaSat-3 network. To the latter question, a Viasat spokesman says: “Yes, it will have that capability available.”
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Featured image of Sichuan Airlines A320 fitted with Viasat’s antenna hardware credited to Viasat