Virgin America working on improved WiFi with ViaSat

Virgin America has announced a new technology partnership with ViaSat to bring significantly faster WiFi connectivity to the airline's 10 new Airbus A320s, scheduled to begin delivery in September of this year.

The airline says it will tap the power and economics of ViaSat-1, the highest capacity Ka-band satellite in the world offering 140 gigabits-per-second, to deliver the fastest WiFi connectivity service for high-quality video streaming.

According to Virgin America, ViaSat's technology will deliver internet speeds “that are typically 8 to 10 times faster than any other inflight WiFi system”, allowing passengers to experience internet speeds similar to those they have at home. With the new technology, Virgin America says it will become the first commercial airline to offer an in-flight WiFi service that can operate in both Ku- and Ka-band satellite networks on the same aircraft.

By deploying ViaSat's new hybrid Ku/Ka-band antenna, Virgin America can keep travellers connected virtually anywhere the airline flies, ensuring guests always have the best available connection in any given location. ViaSat's new hybrid Ku/Ka-band antenna will enable inflight WiFi connectivity on flights serving the airline's new Hawaiian destinations as of 2016.

"The idea behind our inflight entertainment and connectivity offerings has always been to offer travellers more content, more interactivity and more of the choices they have access to on the ground," explained Ken Bieler, director of product design and innovation at Virgin America. "Since 2009, our guests have come to rely on and expect WiFi access on every flight, and we've continued to improve our WiFi product offering over the years. Bringing ViaSat's satellite-based WiFi product to our new delivery aircraft will again allow us to make an industry-leading investment in our product. We are excited about this new technology and the possibility it opens up for WiFi coverage on our new Hawaii flights and for travellers who wish to stream video in flight."

Installation of ViaSat's systems begins immediately, with the first Ka-band antenna equipped aircraft to take flight in the continental US in September 2015. Aircraft scheduled for Hawaii flights will be outfitted with ViaSat's hybrid Ku/Ka-band antenna in early 2016. During the beta period rollout of the ViaSat product, Virgin America will offer free WiFi access on its first ViaSat equipped aircraft. The airline will introduce pricing for the service in 2016.

"Our competitive advantage is rooted in the unique bandwidth economics of ViaSat-1 and the forthcoming ViaSat-2 satellite networks,” declared Don Buchman, vice president and general manager, commercial mobility business, ViaSat. “We can empower airlines to engage all of their guests in an inflight, online experience just like they'd get on the ground – including streaming high quality video. Virgin America is a brand that shares our love of innovation and strives to bring the best service possible to the traveller."

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