How Viasat’s Ka-band satellite ecosystem adds resiliency in commercial aviation

To keep planes connected, Viasat has a number of ways to guard against failures


From time to time, a single catastrophic satellite communications failure can occur — taking down an entire communications network, leaving satellite broadband users stranded.

While not implausible, catastrophic system failures are extremely rare.

More common are subsystem failures, which result in a temporary reduction of available services. Viasat has taken proactive steps against both types of failures in their satellite systems. The core of this prevention strategy is a fully-integrated system, in which the company designs every part of the satellite system from the ground up and controls the end-to-end experience. This vertically-integrated strategy is analogous to a closed operating system in computing. And while this approach requires more work, its rewards are higher quality, efficiency, compatibility and versatility

In speaking with FierceWireless, Don Buchman, vice president and general manager of Viasat’s Commercial Aviation arm, pointed out, “A fully integrated system ensures resiliency in the event of failure. For example, Viasat’s satellites can minimize downtown through gateway reallocation. While most satellites transmit to particular gateways, Viasat’s system are ‘self-healing’ and designed to instantly reallocate capabilities to other gateways if needed.”

Viasat is also practicing safety in numbers. By the end of 2022, the company expects to have expanded its satellite fleet — adding three ViaSat-3 class satellites that will provide global coverage from geostationary orbit, each one offering over 1 terabit per second of network capacity. By having more satellites in orbit with unmatched bandwidth capabilities, Viasat is continuing to build-in resiliency without sacrificing service.

Buchman added, “In addition to capacity gains, our satellites operate with dynamic flexibility, meaning we can allocate capacity resources according to geographic and consumer demand.”

With dynamic flexibility built into its constellations’ system design, Viasat has the ability to move capacity around as needed. This is critically-important, because if a satellite were to experience a failure, Viasat would be able to shift capacity to serve customer needs. This is achieved because Viasat’s vertically integrated network supports flexible business models that can respond rapidly to shifts across technology and business landscapes.

Buchman closed saying, “From a commercial aviation perspective, we know we can move capacity to serve aviation customers globally — wherever we have satellite coverage. Our goal is to keep airlines and their passengers connected no matter where they fly. We have taken actions with our current and future satellite designs, coupled with our vertical integration strategy, to keep customers connected — regardless of destination.

This article originally appeared in Fierce Wireless

As the Customer Engagement Marketing Manager at Viasat, Kelsey Goodman partners with commercial airline customers to highlight how they are evolving the aviation industry through connectivity.