SatCom W-IFE - Wireless In-flight Entertainment Services via SatCom for Commercial Airlines

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Objectives of the service

The integration of Viasat Ireland’s (formerly Arconics) Wireless In-flight Entertainment product into Viasat’s in-flight connectivity platform and the development of additional functionality of the combined system, is to increase the downstream revenue of satcom in the global in-flight connectivity market which is expected to grow to $1.3 billion by 2022, according to a strategic review by Euroconsult. This ESA-supported activity is to provide innovations to Viasat Ireland’s software to operate over broadband satellite networks rather than solely in the terrestrial 3G/4G systems. Euroconsult’s research shows that the in-flight entertainment market is growing alongside the in-flight connectivity market, with the airlines benefiting from new solutions that increase passenger satisfaction, reduce costs and provide more ancillary revenue opportunities. Additional to an improved service offering for Viasat’s in-flight connectivity customers, the commercialised service of this activity is to provide a new route to market for Viasat Ireland’s in-flight entertainment software.

Product Benefits

  • Passenger satisfaction – passengers have access to hundreds of hours of movies, TV
    shows and music streamed directly to their PEDs
  • Cost saving for airlines – With W-IFE no external hardware is needed and it removes the need for traditional seat-back screens, both allowing airlines to save on weight and thus fuel costs.
  • Ancillary revenues for airlines– Airlines have the potential for generating ancillary revenues through additional service such as an online shop or targeted advertising.
  • Operational efficiencies for airlines including updating content more frequently and to control the process, eliminating traditional content integration lead times and costs.
  • No additional hardware for W-IFE as it is integrated into Viasat’s in-flight connectivity that offers broadband connection.
  • One service provider for connectivity and W-IFE.


The product development efforts focus on enhancing the existing application suite for delivery of inflight entertainment to passengers. While the fundamentals of this application suite currently exist and have been delivered and certified for flight, there are elements, when paired with a satellite provided internet connection and a large fleet of aircraft, that need some enhancements. Product integration allows existing systems from the wireless inflight entertainment and the inflight connectivity to function together. Enhancements and further developments create a commercial product meeting airline customer needs. 

Upgrades to architecture as part of ESA activity.
Upgrades/enhancements in orange.

Product Features

The system consists of a combination of onboard hardware, onboard software and the aircraft’s software (Content Management System, Synchronization Tools) that enable ease of updating the content on the aircraft plus returning transactional and analytical data from the aircraft to the operator, providing real or near-real time system usage and health data. Ongoing development includes specific design work as well as upgraded functionality, including next-generation DRM (Digital Rights Management) to support next generation devices, content security and functions such as multiple audio tracks and dynamic subtitles to assist hard-of-hearing passengers. Integration of popular third-party products associated with the travel industry (via API) is to be considered for future development. In the medium to longer term, the vision (and value) is a product that enables connectivity, entertainment and information across the entire journey, allowing airlines to better service their customers, to raise additional revenue streams and to operate their businesses more effectively with the collection and distribution of near real-time data.

Arconics CloudStore W-IFE within ViaSat connected aircraft architecture.

Key Issues

Challenges include:

  • Defining how the content is managed on the backend
  • Securing an airline to witness the acceptance test

Current Status

The project has been concluded with a final review held March 2018.

The key project objectives were successfully delivered and the satellite capability within the Viasat test environments demonstrated to potential clients. The successful demonstrations led to the airlines proceeding with the overall IFE/IFC projects, and currently these are in the process of being rolled out to live operational aircraft. 

As of March 2018, Viasat have secured airline commitments for the deployment of the software to over 500 aircraft.  

Viasat service is now live with major North American and Australian airlines. In recent weeks Viasat agreed new commercial terms with another well-known North American airline.

Status Date

Updated: 03 April 2018 - Created: 23 January 2017