One thing successful companies operating globally understand is that countries often vary greatly in terms of doing business within them. It could be political, regulatory, legal, or even cultural issues. As Viasat expands globally, we’ve evolved our business practices to meet regional demands — especially when it comes to decisions about selling directly or working with local partners.
For our business aviation connectivity service in Brazil, issues surrounding regulation and taxation made it clear from the get-go that working with a value-added reseller (VAR) in the country was the clearest path to providing our in-flight Wi-Fi solution in Brazil. The first of these, Satcom Direct, is also a global player with an established presence in Brazil.
“Satcom Direct has been a reseller for Viasat for many years, and they set up that division in Brazil to support customers that are based or registered in Brazil,” said Scott Hamilton, director of strategy for Business Aviation at Viasat. “There are unique licensing requirements in Brazil, and services such as satellite communications have to come through a local entity.”
Hamilton noted that Brazil is one of the largest aviation markets in the world due to its sheer size and large swaths of remote territory without many roads or other transportation infrastructure. Viasat created a new regional plan for the Brazil market to accommodate the new territory.
“It really points to how flexible we’re able to be, to create a whole new regional service plan for customers who primarily operate in Brazil,” he said.
Claudio D’Amico, business area director for Business Aviation at Viasat, pointed out that the company’s vertical integration can be helpful in adjusting to new business areas.
“It promotes flexibility in designing plans to address customer’s preferences,” he said, adding that doing so for Brazil made sense due to its size and distance from other aviation markets.
“Brazil is about the size of the United States, excluding Alaska,” he said. “So, it really justifies a regional plan since it’s in this corner of the world in kind of a unique spot. Doing something like this may not make sense in other places, but it certainly does in Brazil with a company like Satcom Direct that’s so well established in the country.”
Viasat already has a substantial presence in Brazil by way of its partnership with government-owned Telebras to operate SGDC-1 — the only Ka-band satellite covering 100% of Brazil. We currently have about 30,000 residential customers; the other 20,000 terminals are Telebras customers (schools, hospitals, etc.) or wholesale customers — so the ability to add aviation connectivity is a logical extension of that. Azul, the largest airline in Brazil by number of cities served and departures, is also a Viasat in-flight Wi-Fi customer.
Things should only get better when the first of the three ViaSat-3 satellites — planned to cover North and South America — is launched later this year.
“So that gives expanded coverage, added performance, and resilience since you’ve got multiple layers you can rely upon,” D’Amico said.
He added that the equipment going on those business jets today will be forward compatible with the ViaSat-3 satellites, enabling those aircraft flying over, into, and out of Brazil to be connected on the same high-capacity, Ka-band Viasat network.