JetBlue Wants to Get You Hooked to In-Flight Internet


Do you suffer from major separation anxiety when you board a flight and are detached from your precious mobile device and Internet connection? Well then have no fear, because new Wi-Fi access is here. According to Bloomberg, providers like Instelsat SA, Viasat Inc (NASDAQ:VSAT), and Inmarsat are all preparing to roll out new airborne Wi-Fi services and technology that will soon promise to connect any Internet-dependent traveler to the interwebs, and some will even offer the service free of cost.

While Wi-Fi in the air is certainly not a new idea, good Wifi in the air is. Gogo Inc (GOGO) currently rules the roost in terms of airborne Wi-Fi service, but its operation, typically charging flyers $14 for all-day service, has managed to fall short of user expectations because while it still maintains the largest share of the U.S. in-flight Internet market, many complain about Gogo’s spotty service, and its inability to operate over water. Because the system only provides a signal over land, many users are left without Wi-Fi for extended amounts of time as they travel over the ocean. And while Gogo’s CEO still promises that his company soon plans to help expand overseas, his company soon may be at risk for losing its market grip to up-and-coming competitors.

Bloomberg reports that one of those competitiors will be ViaSat, the provider poised to debut its service on JetBlue Airways Corp (NASDAQ:JBLU) next month, “[promising] more satellite-delivered bandwidth for each passenger than current market leader Gogo Inc. can offer to an entire plane.”

JetBlue will first launch its new ViaSat Wi-Fi through trial runs on three planes in September, before extending the service to all of its Airbus SAS planes next year. Service to its smaller Embraer SA planes will then follow, likely in 2015 but possibly earlier. And conveniently for JetBlue passengers, the airline won’t even charge its customers for the service, promising it’ll be available for everyone on the plane, free of cost.


And ViaSat isn’t the only provider poised to revolutionize airplane Wi-Fi. Inmarsat Plc is, too, and will use Honeywell (NYSE:HON) equipment to do so. Like ViaSat, Inmarsat will rely on more focused signals from spacecrafts, called spot beams, that use new satellites to carry a higher-concentrated signal, and it plans to launch these spot-bream satellites by 2014.

While in-flight Internet is only currently being offered on about 40 percent of U.S. and Canadian flights, these new providers are confident they can make their own footprint in a market that is dying for much-needed satellite innovation. Though answers to important technological questions are still unclear, these companies will continue to work to be the first to the in-flight Internet finish line.

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