Taking Flight: VSAT And The Connected Aircraft

By Nikola Kromer, Senior Director Product Marketing, iDirect

Nikola-KromerEarlier this week, NSR’s Claude Rousseau authored a great piece for the iDirect blog that sized up the market for satellite-based connections aboard commercial aircrafts over the next decade. He anticipates that this market will reach $3.9 billion by 2024, with roughly $2.1 billion for in-flight connectivity. And as he points out, there is still ‘leg room’ to grow.

On that note, let’s hone in on growth for higher bandwidth applications in particular. Consider the fact that today about 47,500 in-service satcom units in aero are supporting low data rate applications. As high-throughput satellites (HTS) fulfill the demand for higher bandwidth, we can look to a range of uses for VSAT aboard commercial aircraft going forward.

The Connected Aircraft

Today, nearly every major airline is rolling out or planning to deploy in-flight connectivity. For passengers, this means video streaming, voice connections and Wi-Fi. For the airline, it means a range of operational efficiencies, including:

  • Optimizing crew utilization
  • Improving on-time performance and charting
  • Measurement of key data such as speed and fuel consumption


More and more, the airline industry is embracing VSAT to support all such capabilities. With VSAT, airlines are able to offer higher data rates, with continual coverage for both domestic and international routes. And the advent of HTS is dramatically improving capacity economics, which addresses the traditional challenge of higher operational expenses based on the cost of satellite bandwidth.

Maximize Value, Minimize Cost

As VSAT rapidly becomes the enabling technology for commercial airlines, the true value will come from technology that can help maximize value creation, while minimizing the total cost of ownership. iDirect is the leading VSAT system for high throughput, bandwidth-efficient in-flight connectivity.

The fundamental system design of iDirect’s platform can handle unique high-speed communications-on-the-move (COTM) challenges. iDirect allows service providers to manage a complex network in order to have constant coverage across various flight route, while the hub can provide a high degree of technology flexibility and handle large bandwidth pools comprised of multiple satellites, frequencies and bands. The terminal onboard the aircraft needs to be capable of handling high data rate demands required by a connected aircraft, prioritize those traffic requirements and withstand the added challenges of high-speed aerodynamic operations while in flight.

Service providers looking to build the most complete and scalable solution for commercial aero must take all into consideration, and work with a platform that can accommodate all such demands.

This week the Global Connected Aircraft Summit in Washington, D.C., puts the spotlight on the topic of the connected aircraft. I will be in attendance, looking to engage in conversations on the future of this fast-growing industry—and I’ll be sharing my high level takeaways later this week.

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