Viasat has announced today that it will be working with Gazprom Space Systems and Russian telecom operator TMC LLC to bring inflight connectivity to Russia. The partners have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate on the project. The partnership will bring Viasat connectivity to international airlines flying over Russia, as well as those operating within the domestic airspace.
From Russia, with IFC
Leading satellite communications company Viasat has today announced what it calls a ‘strategic MOU’ with two key partners to deliver reliable, high-speed inflight WiFi in the skies over Russia. Working with Russian satellite operator Gazprom Space Systems (GSS) and Russian telecom operator TMC LLC (TMC), the three parties will drive forward the development of connectivity in the vast airspace across the country.
The MOU has provided for an initial roaming agreement between Viasat and GSS, with Viasat leveraging TMC’s telecom license to procure access to Ku-band capacity on the GSS satellite Yamal-401. The partners say that the agreement leaves the door open to future collaboration on new satellite constellations also.
Keven Lippert, chief commercial officer at Viasat, commented on the partnership in a statement today, saying,
“Our MOU with GSS and TMC is an important next step in establishing a global IFC roaming alliance that will ensure airlines have access to uninterrupted, feature-rich IFC services when flying into and over Russia. We look forward to achieving strong synergies across satellite platforms in order to advance the global IFC market.”
The MOU will provide access to Viasat’s global airline customers to roam onto the GSS satellite when traversing Russian airspace. Similarly, Russian airlines will be permitted roaming rights on the Viasat network when outside of Russia’s skies. Finally, it will provide another option for domestic airlines to embrace high speed onboard connectivity.
Russia lacks options when it comes to IFC
The Viasat consortium will complete a key piece in the puzzle for Viasat’s global network. With 11 time zones and some of the longest domestic routes in the world, Russian fliers have, for too long, been forced to endure epic journeys with no connectivity.
Added to this is the increased capacity to keep international airlines connected. Russian airspace provides some of the shortest flight routes between North America and Asia, as well as between Europe and parts of Asia. Currently, for Viasat equipped planes, this can end up being a bit of a WiFi blackspot.
The current provision for WiFi in Russian airspace is limited. For example, Utair carries Global Eagle WiFi, as did Transaero when it was still in business. Aeroflot has SITAONAIR providing its long-haul fleet with WiFi. But most domestic airlines and many of the mainline short-haul fleets still remain unconnected.
Alexey Bulkin, general director at TMC, said that the timing couldn’t be better. Giving a nod to the developing aerospace sector in the country, he commented,
“We expect the MOU between Viasat, GSS and TMC will greatly contribute to the integration of the Russian air transportation industry into the united global aviation market.
“We believe the timing couldn’t be better given Russia’s increased development and production in civil aircraft for both domestic and international markets; the ongoing digital transformation of the economy; and the increased global interest in high-speed, high-quality IFC for domestic flights and international overflights over Russia.”
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