JetBlue said today it plans to install a new in-flight WiFi system on its fleet of 160 planes, using ViaSat's high-capacity satellite technology.
The proposed deal with ViaStat should be finalized by year's end, JetBlue said. ViaStat will then become the third player with deals in the domestic in-flight WiFi market, after Aircell, which has installed its land-based Gogo broadband service on more than 1,000 domestic airplanes, and Row 44, which is under contract to install its satellite-based system in Southwest Airlines' fleet.
The JetBlue press release/announcement quotes Dave Barger, the JetBlue 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."
ViaStat will provide in-flight broadband access and other services for customers on JetBlue's fleet of more than 160 aircraft, using ViaSat advanced Ka-band satellites. 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 Wi-Fi enabled services into the overall cabin experience.
LiveTV, a wholly owned subsidiary of JetBlue, will install and lead the certification process of the new system. 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, before fleet-wide installation. JetBlue and ViaSat expect the first installations to occur by mid-2012.
ViaSat and LiveTV also plan to partner to bring the same advance 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.