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ViaSat and JetBlue confirm deal for Ka-band inflight internet

ViaSat and JetBlue Airways have reached a definitive agreement to deploy the first Ka-band commercial aviation broadband network using ViaSat-1, claimed to be the world’s highest capacity Ka-band satellite.

The agreement formalises the Memorandum of Understanding entered into last September, in which the companies announced their intention to create “the industry’s best inflight broadband for commercial aviation”, using ViaSat’s Ka-band satellite technology. Ka-band can offer higher transmission speeds, more bandwidth for each customer, and more attractive airtime pricing than other high-speed inflight internet access alternatives, says ViaSat.

The agreement includes an order valued at more than $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 finalise a user-friendly and scalable satellite network for inflight broadband,” noted 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. 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,” stated Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s 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 prices around customer’s needs, whether that be e-mailing 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 WiFi-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,” commented 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.”

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