10/13/2020 | BYPOR Alex Miller

Impacts of COVID-19 and how satellite helps deliver an essential service: connectivity

Viasat leaders discuss these main topics during Latin America’s leading satellite event


A lot has changed since Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg joined the Latin American Satellite Congress in September 2019. A pandemic; new customer behaviors; tech disruptions to expand connectivity — and a total new scenario for Viasat in Brazil.

Since then, the company launched its residential satellite internet service in Brazil, and today, it reaches more than 90% of the population. Thus, it was an insightful experience to see through these new perspectives and to discuss market challenges and opportunities during the 2020 edition of the leading satellite event in the region.

Photo: Viasat’s Don Buchman, Evan Dixon and Bruno Henriques recently spoke at the Latin American Satellite Congress.

This year, Viasat presenters included Bruno Henriques, commercial director for Viasat Brasil, Evan Dixon, VP of Residential for the Americas, and Don Buchman, VP of commercial mobility. The online event ran from October 1-6, with a record number of international participants.

More opportunities in Brazil

Dixon participated in the first day of the event to talk about opportunities within the satellite market, which faced an increased demand during the pandemic.

Looking at residential services, Dixon is quite optimistic. With his international experience, he had already mentioned his beliefs that Viasat’s growth will take place mainly abroad in the coming years.

And as Dixon said during the event, the Brazilian market is growing at a fast pace. Currently, Viasat’s residential internet service is available in 21 states and the Federal District. The full rollout to the rest of the country is expected in the coming months.

Besides the post-pandemic scenario, Viasat has more reasons to look at 2021. Dixon spoke enthusiastically about the ViaSat-3 constellation. The ultra-high capacity trio of satellites is expected to be in place in just a few years, with the first helping to expand the coverage and capacity of Viasat’s service in the Americas.

The ‘new normal’ of air travel

On Oct. 6, it was Buchman’s turn to join the panel titled “Verticals: the challenges of digitizing the economy and the role of the satellite.” In his first appearance at an event dedicated to the Brazilian market, he spoke about connectivity in the airline industry.

Once again, the pandemic was in the spotlight. While Buchman acknowledged the challenges brought to aviation by COVID-19, he said the market is now looking for opportunities.

“It is a very exciting market for us, even with the pandemic,” he said.

Buchman explained that in-flight connectivity has been extremely important in reducing exposure to risks during and after the flights, and will play a key role from now on.

While on board, passengers can make contactless payments or use communication apps to avoid physical contact with the crew. They can also search for social-distancing measures and other health rules being enforced at their destination before they even land.

This can also impact the business model in commercial aviation: The trend is offering in-flight connectivity at no extra charge as an attraction for future passengers, instead of a pay-as-you-go charge.

In this case, the charge could be included in the ticket price or subsidized through other sources of income, such as advertising. The bet is that connectivity is becoming as important to the passenger experience as other amenities on-board.

“In the post-COVID world, everyone wants to stay connected,” Buchman said.

The challenges of implementing an essential service

At another Oct. 6 panel featuring the vision of sector leaders, Henriques highlighted Viasat’s investments to launch broadband in Brazil.

Besides the challenges due to the pandemic and technical peculiarities of each state, today, the service is available for 93% of the population. And it continues to expand.

“Think about enabling an entire national network remotely. We used a lot of creativity in the way we work and we did a lot of remote hiring,” Henriques said. “The positive fact is that internet access had been declared an essential service.”