Viasat Unveils Flexible Broadband Service Plans

Viasat-3 Ka-band high-capacity satellite.
Credit: Viasat

Broadband satellite communications (satcom) provider Viasat has unveiled a new service plan structure for business aviation that it describes as unrivaled by other satcom providers.

At NBAA-BACE, the company launched Viasat Select, a Ka-band service offering that can be customized by where an aircraft typically operates and the amount of data it requires. Viasat promises data speeds to the aircraft of 20 Mbps or better across all plans

“It’s an innovation in terms of service plans that combines flexibility, performance and value,” Claudio D’Amico, director of Viasat’s Business Aviation division, tells Aviation Week ShowNews. “One of the things that we’ve heard from customers is ‘we don’t really like how these service plans are designed today.’ There are limitations in terms of performance and speed. There are also some limitations in terms of the data allowances. That’s what we’re trying to solve with Viasat Select.”

D’Amico explained: “We created a set of service plans that are designed to meet regional operations or global operations. There is flexibility to align where you fly your aircraft. We’ve also broken down those service plans into different categories. We have a more entry-level service plan in the regional [category] which is a sub-$3,000 plan—$2,795. It’s a monthly 15-GB plan. That plan was designed to meet the needs of those operators that are lighter users. They either use a light amount of data, for email or texts, or they fly their aircraft for fewer hours.”

List prices of other plans are $5,995 monthly for 50 GB and $9,995 for unlimited data speeds.

“We have midterm [plans] that have more data allowances at a little bit of a higher price, and then we have unlimited plans,” says D’Amico. “That’s for those heavy users. If you’re operating your aircraft on a regional basis over North America, for example, you can select an unlimited plan if you’re one of those heavy users that need streaming, if you need video conferencing capabilities. The other thing about Viasat Select is that independent of the plan, you have the same performance. We removed the speed limits from our plans last summer, and with the new Select plans, we’re delivering the same performance across all of the service plans. We have typical speeds that are greater than 20 Mbps across all of our plans.” 

In July 2020, Viasat announced that it would remove internet speed limits delivered to aircraft connecting via the company’s Global Aero Terminal 5510 (GAT-5510) shipset with its Viasat-1, Viasat-2 and European Ka-band satellite network. The GAT-5510 shipset includes a tail or fuselage-mounted 12-in. parabolic antenna with an integrated power supply unit and a modem.

Viasat, based in Carlsbad, California, is nearing deployment of a new generation of high-capacity Viasat-3 Ka-band satellites that will expand its network capacity and coverage. The first satellite, Viasat-3A, covering the Americas and portions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, is scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2022.

The placement of the first satellite will be followed in roughly six-month intervals by Viasat-3B, covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa regions, then Viasat-3C covering the Asia-Pacific region. The GAT-5510 terminal is forward-compatible with the new satellites.

Viasat provides satcom systems for super-midsize and larger business jets, including the Gulfstream G280, Embraer Praetor, and Bombardier Challenger 350 models and larger Bombardier Global and Gulfstream G550/G650 types. 

“Some of them operate regionally, but some of them operate on a more global basis,” D’Amico says. “The plans that we offer today cover 90% of the business aviation routes between North America, the North Atlantic, and European coverage areas. With Viasat-3 we’re extending that to the other regions that those satellites cover.”

In late September, Viasat announced an expanded relationship with Collins Aerospace to offer Ka-band service through Collins’ ARINC Direct service portfolio. The company also offers connectivity through Satcom Direct and Honeywell Forge, but Viasat Select represents a direct relationship between Viasat and an operator.

“We understand there are operators that have relationships with other service providers that offer services that we don’t offer, that are not our core business, [like] flight planning or cockpit data links,” D’Amico says. 

“There are [also] operators that would like to have a direct relationship with Viasat so they can leverage the end-to-end solution that we bring. We design our own satellites, we design our own terminals, we manage the network,” he adds.

“What we deliver in terms of capacity and speeds, combined with this new service plan structure, [is] the best value in this industry,” D’Amico points out. “It’s very simple math: You divide the total amount of data that you have by the price of that service plan, and you understand how much you’re paying per gigabyte. I challenge any other service provider to quantify that.”

Bill Carey

Bill covers business aviation and advanced air mobility for Aviation Week Network. A former newspaper reporter, he has also covered the airline industry, military aviation, commercial space and uncrewed aircraft systems. He is the author of 'Enter The Drones, The FAA and UAVs in America,' published in 2016.