Delta Partners with Viasat for Free In-Flight WiFi

Speaking on stage at CES in Las Vegas Thursday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian announced that the company is ready to deliver on a long-promised feature. On Feb. 1, the airliner will offer free in-flight Wi-Fi from takeoff to touchdown. 

Come February, ~80% of Delta’s domestic fleet will start offering free service, with support rolling out incrementally to more jets week by week. Delta aims to slay the final boss—full support across regional and international aircraft—by the end of 2024. 

  • Who’s footing the bill? Delta has sunk $1B+ into the initiative, Bastian said. The airline is shouldering some of the costs with T-Mobile, which is sponsoring the service. 

You knew it was coming…

Most chatter about Delta’s announcement, naturally, is from the vantage point of consumers and travel enthusiasts. We’re here to dish the space angle. 

Viasat is Delta’s in-flight connectivity (IFC) partner. Delta says it will have 700 Viasat-equipped aircraft by year’s end. Delta will also be working with Viasat to bring free Wi-Fi to that final boss we mentioned earlier. 

In its most recent quarterly results, Viasat ($VSAT) highlighted strong IFC sales. In Q2 FY2023, the company’s Satellite Services unit (which includes IFC services) revenue was $301M. ”Commercial air IFC services drove significant YoY revenue growth,” Viasat management noted. The company provided IFC services to 1,950 aircraft in Q2 FY2023, an annual increase of 20%.

On the horizon, the satcom company is looking ahead to launching its three ViaSat-3 birds. The GEO satellites are expected to bring unprecedented speeds. They’ll be capable of delivering 1-Terabit/second network capacity and delivering flexible, targeted service to customers where they’re located (and dynamically reallocating capacity when necessary). 

+ PS: This story was written on an airplane using Viasat IFC (seriously).