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ViaSat’s Most Powerful Broadband Satellite Fired Into Orbit

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Inflight broadband should get a lot better as new satellite signals speedier connectivity for travellers

Satellite Internet Service Provider (ISP) ViaSat has fired its most powerful communications  satellite into outer space.

The ViaSat-2 was launched into orbit in the the early hours from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, aboard the Arianespace Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle.

The next generation satellite will double the bandwidth of existing satellites, with more than 300 Gigabits per second (Gbps) of total network capacity. It should (the theory goes) dramatically improve in-flight broadband connectivity for airline passengers.

In airplane © – Fotolia.comWi-Fi In The Sky

The ViaSat-2 was placed into orbit 22,236 miles above the equator. That position should significantly improve satellite speeds across North America, Central America, the Caribbean and a portion of northern South America.

The geostationary satellite will also provide improved connectivity for the aeronautical and maritime routes across the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe, the firm said.

The satellite operates in the Ka-band frequencies, and will double the bandwidth currently available with the ViaSat-1 satellite and well as covering a much wider geographic footprint.

It is reported for example that it will be able to offer a 12 Mbps connection to every airline seat crossing the Atlantic, which should permit streaming of a HD Netflix video whilst aboard the plane.

Size-wise, the new satellite is also something of a beast, with a wingspan of 158ft, the same length as Nelson’s Column and The Arc de Triomphe. It includes plus 23 miles of electrical wiring and weighs in at a whopping 6,400kg, the weight of a large African elephant.

It took 40 months to build and is expected to last 14 years, and it joins an estimated 400 commercial communications satellites currently in space today.

Looking Forward

ViaSat however is not content with just that however. The ViaSat-3 satellite it is currently building with Boeing, will have more capacity than every commercial satellite currently in orbit combined, as that satellite will offer over 1-Terabit per second of network capacity.

This means the ViaSat-3, which is expected sometime in 2019, could potential offer users 100+ Mbps broadband, irrespective of their physical location.

And ViaSat is not just looking to the new generation of space hardware, but it has also expanded its reach in Europe, after it signed a joint venture with Eutelsat.

That deal expanded satellite broadband coverage in Europe and the Mediterranean, as ViaSat essentially became a partner in Eutelsat’s regional wholesale broadband business by acquiring a 49 percent stake in that wholesale business for the sum of 132.5m euros (£103m).

The new venture is owned 51 percent by ViaSat and 49 percent by Eutelsat, and offers a consumer retail service in Europe by initially using KA-SAT, Eutelsat’s high capacity broadband satellite that was launched into space in late 2010.

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