Virgin Australia to gain inflight connectivity by mid-2017

A passenger using an iPad on an aircraft.Virgin Australia’s domestic and international services will introduce inflight connectivity from mid-2017, according to News.com.au.

The site reports that Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti would not say if the service would be free or offered as an optional extra, saying only that such details were still being worked out.

Mr Borghetti said Virgin Australia’s product would be “next generation and provide a seamless service for travellers from airport to airspace”.

“We believe our in-flight Wi-Fi will be popular with business travellers but also have widespread appeal for all our guests by enabling them to stay in touch and access the internet throughout their journey,” Mr Borghetti said in the News.com.au feature.

Virgin Australia’s inflight connectivity provider?

The big question is, who is the supplier? Virgin Australia hasn’t named the inflight connectivity provider, but it can probably be narrowed down to just a few.

One of the contenders is Panasonic Avionics with its Ku-band service. The company recently announced that it had extended its coverage in the Asia-Pacific region.

It announced in June that it had booked additional capacity on the EUTELSAT 172A satellite to deliver broadband connectivity and TV services to commercial airlines.

Another Ku supplier is Gogo. Its 2Ku service has been attracting a lot of interest, including landing a contract with Aeromexico last year. It recently signed up for more capacity with SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, Asia’s leading provider of satellite services, using the high-throughput JCSAT–5A satellite.

Global Eagle Entertainment would also be keen to pitch for the Virgin Australia contract. It has signed contracts with SES and Hughes, although neither were for the Asia-Pacific region. It has, however, signed a contract for inflight connectivity for the HNA Group in China, possibly using SES-12 situated at 95 degrees East.

The final contender could be to be Inmarsat’s Ka-band Global Xpress service, due for global commercial service launch shortly. This could be serviced via one of Inmarsat’s partners, such as Thales, Rockwell Collins or SITAONAIR.

Virgin Australia’s Borghetti did call the new service “next generation”, which hints at either Global Xpress or high-throughput (HTS) Ku-band.

Or could it be a new/hybrid provider utilising the services of Ku-band satellites in the region?

It said more details about Virgin Australia’s inflight Wi-Fi, including technology partners, will be released by the end of 2016.

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