Meet the Experts: The team behind upcoming customer equipment upgrades

The launch of service from the upcoming ViaSat-3 satellite constellation will be accompanied by enhanced devices on the ground


Residential internet equipment

When Viasat’s next generation of internet service launches, it won’t just be through a new satellite and ground infrastructure. It’ll be directed into each ViaSat-3 customer’s home via a new TRIA and router. These are the vital pieces of equipment installed at a customer’s home or business that link their home network to the satellite, translating signals so their computers, smartphones and other devices can access the internet.

Viasat’s engineers have spent the past four years re-engineering this technology, which opens the door to higher speeds and other notable improvements.

Service nationwide will be more consistent across the country, and plans more uniform – with less of the geographic variability that exists today. It will also make our service more efficient, and primed to accommodate service upgrades planned in conjunction with ViaSat-3.

The improvements mean both business and residential customers can look forward to a better overall experience with their service. Better software and management tools will create an easier installation experience, greater access to features like parental controls and basic service troubleshooting — plus an improved in-home Wi-Fi network.

“The changes we’ve made to the designs for these devices are all about making it a good experience for the consumer,” said Jim Poder, the company’s head of terminal development. “With our entire ViaSat-3 system, everything has changed – from the way we do ground networks to the way the satellite functions – it is a totally technology upgrade for Viasat. We’ve added tremendous innovation in each of those parts of the network.”

TRIA and router upgrades

Those systemwide upgrades start at the customer’s home with the TRIA – the transmit and receive integrated assembly. It processes signals between the user terminal and the satellite. The TRIA is a metal box attached to the arm that extends from the reflector (commonly called the dish). While the dish may be the more visible component, the TRIA is the real workhorse in the process.

“I believe our new TRIA is the most advanced software-defined radio that exists; it really is a tremendous feat of engineering,” Poder said. “We’ve built a whole lot of custom computer chips to handle it that are very flexible in how they communicate. And we’ve designed our devices to be forward-compatible to ensure this system has a long life.”

As part of the upgrades, the modem is now integrated into the TRIA; previously, it and the router were designed into a shared device.

While Viasat will also offer customers its own newly designed router, the new configuration gives consumers and installers the option to use a router from another manufacturer. As routers and Wi-Fi standards evolve and change, that will allow Viasat and its customers to more easily upgrade equipment.

“This is a major difference in the architecture of our consumer equipment,” said Todd Lewis, Viasat’s vice president of IT. “Now, we’ll be able to plug anyone’s router into our outdoor unit. We can mix and match, and partner with someone else.

“It decouples our satellite development cycle from our ability to provide product improvements in a much more rapid and agile fashion,” he added. “It gives us a tremendous amount of capability to control and improve the user experience.”

While consumers will have the option to use other routers, the Viasat router that will debut with ViaSat-3 service offers many technological advancements.

It’s capable of hosting a variety of consumer products, including traditional land-based telephone service, the Viasat Shield cybersecurity service, and planned streaming enhancements.

“Through this router we can also monitor and improve the Wi-Fi experience in your home,” Poder said. “It will look at how well devices are interacting with the Wi-Fi or network, and automatically adjust the way the router works to improve the performance.”

While the technology upgrades are significant, Poder said they work together to achieve one common goal.

“The technology and everything we do is just to deliver the best service to the customer,” he said. “Our products are easy to use, reliable, as inexpensive and robust as they can be. The changes we’ve made to designs for these devices – it’s all about making it a good experience for the consumer.”

And though some of the upgrades are specific to the ViaSat-3 service, Lewis said the improvements will benefit the company’s entire network.

“These investments in our technology allow us to provide a better service overall,” he said. ”We’ll be making more efficient use of all our assets.”