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Viasat, China Satcom Set to Provide IFC Service in Chinese Airspace

By Jeffrey Hill | November 23, 2021
China Eastern Airlines

Photo: China Eastern Airlines

Viasat‘s in-flight connectivity (IFC) Ka-band service is now ready to commence operation in Chinese airspace, the satellite operator announced Tuesday. Working in cooperation with China Satellite Communications (China Satcom), Viasat said it will soon begin delivering IFC service to domestic and international airlines via the Ka-band ChinaSat-16 satellite system.

The IFC service development was the result of a partnership agreement between Viasat and China Satcom that specifically covers commercial aviation IFC. Under the terms of the agreement, each company maintains its own intellectual property and will operate its equipment using a multi-layered approach to network services.

“Working with China Satcom, we have achieved a great milestone— delivering strong customer performance gains in terms of network speed and reliability at any phase of a flight, which provides an on-the-ground internet experience even when in-flight,” Don Buchman, Viasat’s vice president and general manager of commercial aviation, said in a statement. “The effort committed to by both teams has been tremendous and showcases the capabilities of Viasat’s industry-leading technology with China Satcom’s satellite capacity.”

Viasat did not give a specific date for the Chinese IFC service launch.

It’s been a busy November for Viasat, which just acquired U.K. global operator Inmarsat in a massive $7.3 billion deal that  included a payment of $850 million in cash and 46.36 million Viasat shares valued at $3.1 billion. The combined company will have a spectrum license portfolio across the Ka-, L-, and S-bands and a fleet of 19 satellites in service, with an additional 10 satellites to come in the next three years.

In 2016, Inmarsat Aviation’s Vice President of Strategy Frederik van Essen told Via Satellite that the operator was trying to enter China’s satellite-based In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) market. “Certainly when it comes to network planning we are looking at China. China is clearly on the radar; it is one of the fastest growing aviation markets,” van Essen said in the interview.

IFC falls under Viasat’s Commercial Networks business. While the division is Viasat’s smallest, it saw the largest growth in it’s latest financial quarterly report. Viasat reported $135 million in revenue in its latest quarter ending in September, up 71% from the same time last year. Viasat said mobile In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) terminal deliveries and the continued strong performance of its ground antenna systems business drove this increase.