Viasat and China Satellite Communications have formed an agreement for a strategic partnership to jointly provide in-flight connectivity (IFC) services within China for domestic and international airlines.

Viasat and China Satcom will work in partnership to enable Viasat’s global airline customers to have roaming connectivity when flying over China, provide IFC service to domestic flights within China, and enable Chinese airlines to roam onto Viasat’s global network.

China Satcom is a licensed telecommunications service provider in China and also owns and operates an extensive Ka-band spotbeam satellite system in China, which it says is the only Ka-band system currently available for IFC service in the country.

The two will jointly develop and share in future China-based IFC business.

Viasat will deliver and support its IFC equipment to airlines tailored for use on the China Satcom network, while China Satcom will leverage its telecommunications service provider business license, operating expertise and existing ground infrastructure to lead delivery of advanced IFC services to the airlines. China Satcom’s Ka-band fleet includes the already operational ChinaSat-16 satellite as well as ChinaSat-18, planned for launch later in 2019.

“Our agreement with China Satcom is a significant step towards realising a seamless global community of high performance IFC,” said Don Buchman, vice-president and general manager, Commercial Aviation, Viasat. “Our partnership is a natural way to extend state-of-the-art services specific to China Satcom’s fleet and the China domestic market, and create a global roaming alliance for our existing and new domestic and international customers and the rapidly growing Chinese global commercial airline fleet. We are honoured to work with China Satcom in China to make IFC-at-scale a reality.”

Viasat explained that although China is the second largest aviation market in the world (according to IATA research), only around 4% of flights within China are connected.

Per the terms of the agreement, each company will maintain its own intellectual property and will operate its equipment using a multi-layered approach to network services. This agreement specifically covers commercial aviation IFC, but could extend into the development of new connectivity applications for other ancillary markets in China.

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