updated 09:05 pm EDT, Mon April 11, 2011
JetBlue to get ViaSat in-flight Internet
JetBlue has quietly reached a deal with ViaSat to offer what should be part of the next generation of in-flight Internet access. The two made permanent a previous memorandum of understanding that would see ViaSat provide satellite access over the fast Ka-band on all its planes. The Ka-band is claimed to be fast enough to beat a land-based system like Gogo's and would allow for "streaming movies" even while dropping the price compared to talking to cell sites on the ground.
The deal would see JetBlue spend $30 million on the connections needed to outfit its entire 170-plane fleet. A timeframe doesn't yet exist and will hinge on whether or not the FAA approves ViaSat's system for JetBlue.
Land-based services like Gogo have been some of the first commercially viable options in the US but have a number of setbacks. Their performance is dependent on how close the aircraft is to a cell site and is limited by existing cellular technology; it currently uses Verizon's EVDO and has roughly 2Mbps to share with an entire plane. It also can't go beyond the US and, even if a roaming deal existed, couldn't get online on cross-ocean flights.
Satellite access isn't constrained by ground location and should work worldwide, even above open water. ViaSat is currently developing a global network known as Yonder and could theoretically offer Internet access across an entire international trip.