Kiteline struggling to get off the ground

Although jetBlue was very early in getting in-flight internet connectivity off the ground with their Kiteline product, they have fallen well behind competitors Aircell and Row44 in the deployment race. Kiteline came into the market with quite a splash back in 2007.  Unfortunately the progress since then has not lived up to the hype. Indeed, while Aircell has deployed its gogo service in hundreds of aircraft and Row44 has secured a deal with Southwest to have the service deployed in all 500+ of their planes in the coming years, the Kiteline product still exists on only one aircraft: jetBlue’s BetaBlue.

And it doesn’t look like that is going to change anytime soon.

Continental Airlines announced plans to deploy the Kiteline product in conjunction with their deployment of the LiveTV television service. The initial announcement was quite some time ago, with the expectation that the Kiteline system would be installed around the same time as the television service. Around January ‘09 the schedule was revised with the Kiteline service expected to see deployment towards October or November of that year.  By June the Kiteline deployment was pushed to Q1 2010 and only on about 30 planes as a trial. Then, in December, Continental announced that the deployments of the Kiteline product on the 737-900ERs would not take place until Q2 2010, at the same time that the gogo product would be trialed on the 757-300s. While the delays have been unfortunate, at least that last delay set up a first for the industry: a true side-by-side comparison of two different products on a significant number of planes from the same company.  Alas, even that seems not meant to be.

A number of unofficial sources reported over the past few weeks that the deployment of the Kiteline product will not occur by Q2 2010 as was most recently scheduled.  There appear to be issues with the hardware that are preventing the system from performing as expected.  This is pushing the initial install date to May 2010 at the very earliest and that date is highly unlikely to stick either, according to the reports.  And now Continental is confirming the delay with the following statement from a company official:

We continue to follow the progress of LiveTV’s development of Kiteline.  We don’t expect that it will be available on our flights in the second quarter of 2010.

What does this mean in the long term?  Hard to say for certain.  But Continental was the only major carrier committed to the new Kiteline product and they are going to be going ahead with the gogo trial in Q2.  If that is the only functional option available to them for a wide-scale deployment it is hard to imagine that they will choose to continue waiting for the Kiteline product, especially with the number of delays it has seen thus far.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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