Virgin America Souping Up WiFi System So Passengers Can Stream Video

A growing number of planes now allow passengers to connect to onboard WiFi networks (usually for a fee), but the connection is often sluggish and sometimes unreliable; it’s rarely good enough to stream video dependably. Virgin America hopes its upgraded inflight WiFi will solve that problem.

The Verge reports that a new partnership between the airline and ViaSat aims to provide passengers with a strong enough WiFi connection to stream videos from Netflix and YouTube and keep them connected over large areas of water like the Pacific Ocean.

The company says that the faster connection will be included in 10 new A320 airplanes that arrive in September. The first flights are expected to take off for Hawaii in early 2016.

The new high-speed connections will be made available for free to passengers initially.

Virgin America CEO David Cush says that the new WiFi connection – which he calls a “significant competitive advantage” – is made possible through a system of Ka satellites across the U.S. These particular satellites deliver speeds up to 10 times faster than Virgin’s current system and 30 times faster than those currently in use by other airlines.

“It’s a dual antenna that also uses the Ku satellites across the pacific, so we can have a single antenna offer very fast Wi-Fi across the US and adequate WiFi to Hawaii now,” Cush says.

A spokesperson for ViaSat tells ConsumerAffairs that tests of the new system conducted in July and August showed the aircraft could transition seamlessly between Ku and Ka networks.

“For enroute airborne missions, seamless roaming on the best available broadband network can assure our customers continuous operation on a resilient enterprise network,” Ken Peterman, vice president of ViaSat Government Systems.

Virgin America’s Wi-Fi will be fast enough for Netflix on some flights next year [The Verge]
Virgin America deploys upgraded in-flight WiFi system [ConsumerAffairs]

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