ViaSat Boosts IFC Portfolio with Software Company Acquisition
[Via Satellite 11-16-2016] In a bid to boost its wireless In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) offering for passengers and in-flight operational capabilities for pilots, satellite broadband provider ViaSat has acquired Irish aviation software provider Arconics. The deal, announced on Nov. 15, builds on the companies’ previous relationship, which centered around tag-teaming IFE solutions, often reliant on In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) offered by ViaSat. The acquisition will look to integrate Arconics’ wireless IFE, and aviation software into ViaSat’s in-flight broadband platform and grow capability throughout the plane, first in the in wireless IFE sector and then with expanding operational connectivity capabilities for pilots.
“By acquiring Arconics, we can immediately strengthen our ability to serve the global aviation market, initially in commercial air, but looking ahead also in business and government aviation sectors,” Don Buchman, vice president and general manager for the commercial mobility business at ViaSat, told Via Satellite. Combining the companies’ assets will provide ViaSat with an immediate position in new markets, according to Buchman. Not to mention that, in addition to connectivity and passenger services, ViaSat can now add connectivity to flight deck applications and operations.
“In the near-term, we see the Arconics wireless IFE kit as a complement to our in-flight internet connectivity and streaming solution. In almost every [Request for Proposal] RFP we see today, wireless IFE is either mandatory or a favorably requested option. This is a trend we cannot overlook,” Buchman said.
ViaSat will integrate IFC services throughout the aircraft, including its passenger-experience focused PaxApp application and wireless IFE systems, with the aim to constantly push content to the aircraft. The wireless IFE solution enabled through Arconics’ kit provides a roadmap for ViaSat to offer onboard streamed content in areas where the company does not yet offer global connectivity. This will allow an airline to continue to provide streaming IFE content to passengers’ Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) in Wi-Fi-free areas for now, and then migrate to the full streaming program once ViaSat launches its global Ka-band service beginning next year, which aims to provide worldwide internet coverage. This service begins with ViaSat 2, slated for launch in 2017, and continues with planned back-to-back launches of ViaSat 3 and in 2019 and 2020.
Arconics also boasts airline customers such as Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Aer Lingus and others, which use the Dublin-based software company’s technology and will allow ViaSat to expand its already impressive portfolio of airlines.
In the long-term, however, with the airline market pivoting its interest more toward enhancing operational capability through connected communication, enhanced weather alerting and other improvements, the acquisition will help ViaSat buoy its offering in the cockpit. Post-acquisition, ViaSat expects to also offer airlines real-time insight, control and agility of aircraft and flight data with integrated, customizable aircraft operations tools that can tap into the power of ViaSat’s coming Ka-band satellite network.
“Airlines were initially focused on passenger experience … but airlines are now more seriously exploring the operational data side. With the amount of capacity ViaSat can deliver to each device/plane, we can enable airlines, [Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul facilities] MROs, and flight operations teams to collect and translate aircraft data into real-time actionable and useful information,” Buchman said, noting that the aim is to ultimately reduce operating spend, improve safety conditions and provide better situational awareness for pilots.
With this aim, the company will also offer an Electronic Flight Bag (EFBs) platform integrated with weather, Air Traffic Control (ATC), fleet dispatch and operational support, among several other initiatives that aim to make use of real-time data.
“We believe the flight ops data market is relatively untapped and with the Arconics products and expertise in-house we can better target and approach a variety of new opportunities. For example, there continues to be a movement toward the paperless cockpit with centralized EFB document management applications enabling the sharing of data across platforms. As more data flows through this paperless environment, not only will a big data pipe be needed today, but it must be ready to take on the data demands of tomorrow. Weather, turbulence, other local environmental data has become important to get into the flight crew’s hands real-time,” said Buchman.