JetBlue Wifii

Good news for travelers who need to stay connected en route: According to an internal company email acquired by The Verge, JetBlue is reportedly planning to unveil high-speed wireless Internet access early next year.

Unlike several of its competitors, the airline won't be hitting up the popular GoGo service for its onboard Wi-Fi needs. (JetBlue disses the inflight service provider, calling it slow and unsatisfying.) Instead, the company signed with LiveTV/ViaSat, which claims to be able to dish up 10 webpages in 1 minute and 18 seconds in testing. The Ka-band satellite service seems lightning quick compared to others, some of which take as long as 8 minutes to do the same.

But speed is only part of the equation. The other is price, which has the airline offering connectivity for free during the launch phase (i.e. until 30 planes have been set up and online). And even after that, the plan is to continue offering basic connectivity for things like email and web browsing for free. (There will be a charge, however, if passengers want to download a movie or stream TV shows.)

Whispers about a deal between the two companies have been going on since the Spring, but the leaked memo (below) indicates that things are progressing and that the rollouts should begin in the first quarter of 2013.

If ticket prices were the same, would in-flight Wi-Fi make a difference in your choice of airline? Weigh in below.

[Via The Verge]

I'm writing to you from London, where I'm about to reveal some of the details of our Wi-Fi product to the World Low Cost Airlines Conference. I want to make sure you hear it first, of course, so please read on!

Currently, Wi-Fi on board is a competitive advantage. Customers, especially those traveling for business, with everything else being equal, will choose the airline that offers connectivity, even if the service is spotty or expensive.

Understanding how important inflight connectivity is to Customers forces airlines that don't have Wi-Fi to get in the game, quickly. Airlines can choose ground-to-air services, like Gogo, or satellite-based services like Row 44 or Panasonic. Although the technology is different, the Customer experience is very similar – s l o w.

According to a recent FlightView survey, only a small percentage of Customers are satisfied with the Wi-Fi service models currently offered in-flight and at airports.

The challenge for us was building a Wi-Fi product that broke this slow, frustrating and ultimately unsatisfactory mold. We wanted to find a way to deliver faster and less expensive service that would result in greater satisfaction. With LiveTV partnering with ViaSat, I think we found the sweet spot.

Our Wi-Fi will be lightning fast. In a series of tests, ViaSat's staff was able to load 10 web pages through our satellite service in an average of 1 minute, 18 seconds! The second-fastest service, commonly deployed by our competitors, took as long as 8 minutes, 42 seconds! Customers are going to know that JetBlue's Wi-Fi is faster – word will definitely get around.

But to make sure Customers appreciate the difference, we also decided to make the baseline connectivity free, at least until the first 30 aircraft are equipped with our service. If the speed doesn't get them talking, the free part should!

The difference is in the technology. The Ka-band satellite we launched last October is the latest generation, with capacity equal to 100 last-generation Ku-band satellites. It's smarter, newer, cheaper and better than anything on the market today for commercial aviation. This technology had only been available to government and private aviation, in fact. We plan to make JetBlue the very first commercial airline to offer this product on board, at altitude.

Our first foray into connectivity, with BetaBlue in 2007, was a great learning experience and I don't regret it for one minute. It wasn't easy for anyone to endure the questions and demands for good Wi-Fi from our Customers, but it was the right decision. LiveTV will begin installing ViaSat on our aircraft in the first quarter of 2013 – so stay tuned for more information as it rolls out. I know it will be worth the wait.