WiFi signals aboard hundreds of U.S. airliners will soon get a big boost in speed, reliability and bandwidth as a major new satellite system comes on line for ViaSat, the biggest provider of inflight WiFi for U.S. airlines.
The boost will come when the new ViaSat-3 satellite, launched last Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center, enters its final orbit position and is programmed into the network. It's the last of a three-satellite network that will replace older satellites that haven't the speed and throughput to keep up with modern needs.
Where WiFi was once an exotic and extra-cost option mainly for business travelers, it has now become widespread and has seen cost drops, even to zero, on many airlines. JetBlue has offered free WiFi from the beginning and is a ViaSat user. American, Delta and United have all been moving their WiFi installations to ViaSat, and Delta has promised to offer the service free.
Another feature of the new satellites will make the service even more useful; it was built with the ability to shift where the service is beamed to match use patterns. For instance, it could shift capacity to East Coast routes during the busy morning hours while the West Coast was still waking up.