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Virgin America has announced a partnership with satellite broadband provider ViaSat to bring faster inflight Wi-Fi to their new fleet of ten Airbus A320 aircraft, starting in September this year.
Virgin's much faster inflight Wi-Fi will use ViaSat's new hybrid Ku/Ka-band antennas for the first time on aircraft designated for over-water journeys, allowing them to connect to both types of satellite networks where necessary. Typical inflight Wi-Fi systems use air-to-ground antennas, which don't work over the ocean, but this new system will allow continuous satellite internet connectivity when traveling to Hawaii across the Pacific.
While traveling across mainland North America, the new system will connect to ViaSat's flagship ViaSat-1 Ka-band satellite, which has a total capacity of around 140 Gbps and already serves satellite internet customers across the United States and Canada.
Thanks to the use of ViaSat's fast satellite internet connections, Virgin America claims their new inflight Wi-Fi network will be "8 to 10 times faster than any other inflight Wi-Fi system". The speeds customers will achieve will be "similar to what they have at home", and will apparently be enough to stream video at 35,000 feet.
The first A320s equipped with Ka-band antennas will enter service in September 2015 on flights across the continental US. A320s with hybrid Ku/Ka-band antennas will begin flying to Hawaii in early 2016.