AIX: Don Buchman, Viasat, upbeat about company’s future

Don Buchman, Viasat VP Commercial Aviation.
Don Buchman, VP Commercial Aviation at Viasat.

Don Buchman, VP Commercial Aviation at Viasat, is bullish about the company’s offering, achievements and future plans.

“The roll-out of our Gen-2 terminal equipment for Viasat-2 is going well, our inflight connectivity with Qantas has been very successful and people know that if they step onto a Viasat-equipped JetBlue aircraft the connectivity will work,” Buchman said.

“And what’s more we have plenty more to look forward to.”

In November 2017 Viasat announced it had expanded its relationship with JetBlue, and will serve as the direct in-flight internet service provider to the airline.

JetBlue aircraft will have access to the additional coverage and capacity offered by the ViaSat-2 and ViaSat-3 satellite platforms.

In February, Viasat announced a new contract with United Airlines (UAL) to bring its inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) system to more than 70 aircraft, including at least 58 of United’s new Boeing 737MAX aircraft.

EL AL will also have access to ViaSat-2 on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet, plus there is American Airlines, SAS and Finnair.

He added that the ViaSat-2 satellite is due to come online this summer and plans are under way for the launch of the first ViaSat-3 satellite, scheduled to come into service in 2020.

In an increasingly cut-throat inflight connectivity market, Buchman is adamant.

“JetBlue and Qantas have the power of using a single supplier for their IFC,” he said. “Providing a service is important, but the secret of success is to ensure you can keep on providing it — day in, day out.

“Passengers don’t choose their aircraft when they book a ticket. They just want to know that the whole fleet is equipped with WiFi and that it works.

“And they want it to be free as well. Only a very small percentage of flyers are prepared to pay for inflight connectivity and increasingly they will search out airlines that can provide it,” he said.

If previous AIX shows have highlighted that connectivity speed is important, this show is all about showing you have enough capacity to cope with demand.

“We’ve got that capacity now, and will have even more in the future with ViaSat-3,” Buchman said.

The first Viasat-3 satellite launch will cover the Americas, the second Europe and the Middle East and the third Asia Pacific.

“We will be able to provide more than a Terabit per second Ka-band capacity,” Buchman said. “Although we may not need all of it today, we are effectively future-proofing our service.”

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