Stuck with slow, expensive satellite internet? Faster speeds are on the way, thanks to ViaSat-2, a satellite that launched into orbit on Thursday.
ViaSat-2 will boost the capacity available to ViaSat's Exede consumer satellite internet service, as well as its airline and government customers. It will take several months for the new satellite to reach its intended orbital path and complete diagnostic tests, so Exede hasn't announced any new data plans yet. But ViaSat estimates that once ViaSat-2 goes online at the end of the year, it will be able to provide as much as 100Mbps download capacity to people's homes.
To put that in perspective, Exede's current plans top out at 25Mbps, but only in certain areas. They also have painfully low data caps: the $150-per-month plan, for instance, limits you to 30GB per month. ViaSat reported that it had approximately 659,000 residential subscribers at the close of its 2017 fiscal year. That's a tiny number when compared with major broadband providers like Comcast, but many of Exede's customers live in rural areas that aren't served by any other ground-based internet service providers.
One of Exede's main competitors, HughesNet, recently launched its own higher-capacity satellite, called Echostar XIX. HughesNet plans also top out at 25Mbps, although the increased capacity means it has quadrupled data caps.
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Since ViaSat-2 will expand the company's service area to parts of Central and South America, it is also experimenting with bringing satellite internet to a single access point in small villages, and then distributing it to people's devices via Wi-Fi.
"Many villages within our trial program have no, or minimal access to fixed broadband internet services. Our trial work has shown that we can service thousands of villages-at-scale," Kevin Cohen, ViaSat's General Manager of Mexico Consumer Services, said in a statement.
Some airline passengers will also see speed increases for in-flight Wi-Fi. American Airlines is switching to ViaSat for future Wi-Fi installations after lamenting the low speeds of its current Gogo network, which connects to cell towers on the ground. And JetBlue recently finished installing ViaSat internet on its entire fleet. JetBlue's service, which is free, promises up to 20Mbps for each passenger on the plane, which is enough bandwidth to stream online videos in high definition.