Despite Boeing's early efforts to make satellite service the go-to option for in-flight internet, the rather costly connection solution never really took off. It seems, satellite connectivity is about to experience something of a resurgence -- just last month Gogo announced its plans to blanket the globe with Ka-band coverage by 2015, and now JetBlue's announcing that it will be the first to deliver an on-board Ka-band network. In an agreement with ViaSat, the airline intends to bring the service to its more than 170 aircraft, beginning installation in 2012. The new broadband option will reportedly offer higher transmission speeds and more bandwidth per passenger for less money than other in-flight internet alternatives. With Lufthansa's new FlyNet service also sporting satellite-enabled WiFi, it would seem things are looking up for the future of the once doomed broadband solution.
Formalized Agreement with JetBlue Airways for Ka-band In-flight High-Speed Internet Service
Contract includes initial equipment and services order for over $30 million
Carlsbad, Calif. – ViaSat Inc. (Nasdaq:VSAT) and JetBlue Airways (Nasdaq: JBLU) have reached a definitive agreement to deploy the first Ka-band commercial aviation broadband network using ViaSat-1, the world's highest capacity Ka-band satellite. The agreement formalizes the memorandum of understanding, entered into last September, in which the companies announced their intention to create the industry's best in-flight broadband for commercial aviation, using ViaSat's innovative Ka-band satellite technology. Ka-band has the ability to offer higher transmission speeds, more bandwidth for each customer, and more attractive airtime pricing than other high-speed in-flight Internet access alternatives. The agreement includes an order valued at over $30 million for Ka-band airborne terminals and services to outfit the JetBlue fleet of more than 170 aircraft.
"Over the past few months we have worked closely with JetBlue and LiveTV to finalize a user-friendly and scalable satellite network for in-flight broadband," said Mark Dankberg, ViaSat CEO and chairman. "We believe the economics of Ka-band will create an environment that will engage more passengers and offer a broader range of online experiences in the air."
Under the agreement, ViaSat will provide satellite broadband terminals for installation on the airline's Airbus A320 and Embraer E190 aircraft along with two-way transmission bandwidth services using the WildBlue satellite broadband network, including the high-capacity ViaSat-1 satellite. JetBlue will be the first airline to receive the ViaSat Ka-band system, and those initial installations are expected to be quickly followed by deployment onboard the Continental Airlines fleet, as announced on March 22 by JetBlue's wholly-owned subsidiary, LiveTV, and subject to final agreement. Installations are expected to begin in 2012.
"We believe JetBlue, LiveTV, and ViaSat make a great team, enabling our customers to stay connected, informed and entertained while in the air," said Robin Hayes, JetBlue chief commercial officer. "Together, we will introduce a product that will give customers true social networking connectivity at altitude – a 21st Century product that will scale with the ever-increasing reliance we all have on our personal communications devices. We will also have the flexibility to design content and price-points around customer's needs, whether that be emailing or streaming movies, at a much more competitive price point than today's ground-to-air products."
The system, the first of its kind for commercial aviation, must be certificated by the Federal Aviation Administration. LiveTV will manage the certification, integrate the ViaSat broadband and related components onboard the aircraft, and provide the Wi-Fi enabled services into the cabin.
"We have been waiting for the right technology to deliver the highest speed and lowest cost connectivity to an aircraft," said Glenn Latta, president of LiveTV. "Our partnership with ViaSat will deliver a system that puts the airline back in control, allowing airlines the freedom to bundle and price the service in ways consistent with their brand."
The in-flight Ka-band system being developed for JetBlue is also a key step in ViaSat's expansion of its successful Yonder® global mobile satellite network to Ka-band in key international markets. ViaSat is adding capacity from regional partners to the network, such as Yahsat in the Middle East, which will be accessible to a rapidly growing base of aviation, maritime, and government subscribers now getting high-speed access from Ku-band satellites.