Budget airline JetBlue and ViaSat sign an agreement to bring in-flight WiFi to JetBlue's fleet by 2012.
Low-cost airline JetBlue Airways and satellite and wireless
communications specialist ViaSat announced their intent to create
inflight broadband for commercial aviation across the entire JetBlue
fleet, using ViaSat's high-capacity satellite technology. JetBlue and
ViaSat have completed the non-binding memorandum of understanding with
the intent of signing a definitive agreement before the end of
this calendar year.
ViaSat and JetBlue have entered into a MOU for the provision of
in-flight broadband access and other services for customers on
JetBlue's fleet of more than 160 aircraft using ViaSat advanced Ka-band
satellites. Under the arrangement, ViaSat will provide Ka-band antenna
components and SurfBeam(R)2 modems for installation on the airline's
EMBRAER E190 and Airbus A320 aircraft types along with two-way
transmission bandwidth services using the WildBlue-1 and high-capacity
ViaSat-1 satellites. JetBlue subsidiary, LiveTV LLC, will manage the
integration of the ViaSat broadband and related components onboard the
aircraft as well as providing the WiFi enabled services into the
overall cabin experience.
"This system will be designed for the 21st century, not just for
today's personal connectivity needs, but with the bandwidth to expand
to meet tomorrow's needs as well," said Dave Barger, JetBlue's CEO. "In
just the three years since we launched BetaBlue, the first commercial
aircraft with simple messaging capability, technology has advanced by
generations. Rather than invest in current technology, designed to
transmit broadcast video and audio, we elected to partner with ViaSat
to create broadband functionality worthy of today's interactive
personal technology needs."
LiveTV, a subsidiary of JetBlue, will install and lead the
certification process of the new system. Barger said because the
product will be the first of its kind for commercial aviation, the
system must be tested, and certificated by the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA), prior to installation fleet-wide. JetBlue and
ViaSat said they expect the first installations to occur by mid-2012.
Further, ViaSat and LiveTV intend to partner to bring the same Ka-band
satellite broadband services to the airline industry, including to
LiveTV's existing customer base of airlines.
"Combining LiveTV's expertise in entertainment and content management
with ViaSat's satellite technology means we can create products and
services for airline customers that are unparalleled in the industry
today," said Glenn Latta, LiveTV's president.
"JetBlue is the perfect partner to introduce our next generation
ViaSat-1 broadband network to the commercial aviation market," said
Mark Dankberg, ViaSat CEO and chairman. "JetBlue is famous for customer
service and in-flight entertainment. The breakthrough bandwidth
economics of ViaSat-1 extends the passenger Internet experience beyond
just e-mail and web pages and creates a world of possibilities for
personalized broadband entertainment. This is exactly the type of
application and user experience that we believe will help transform the
satellite broadband industry."
American Air, Delta, Alaska Air, Virign Airlines and United Airlines
currently offer WiFi on some or all of their domestic flights. Virgin
America was the first airline in the country to offer
its customers Wi-Fi on every flight. Service is provided by Aircell's
Gogo In-flight Internet service. Gogo is powered by the Aircell
air-to-ground system, which uses three small antennas installed outside
the aircraft and connects to Aircell's exclusive nationwide mobile
Virgin's service is available for $12.95 for daytime flights of over
three hours, $9.95 for daytime flights of less than three hours, $5.95
on red-eye flights and $7.95 for handheld devices. The pricing is
identical to that offered by competing airlines such as American
Airlines, which also offers a tiered plan based on length of flight.