JetBlue’s new in-flight Wifi: Fast and Free*

It seems that things are still on schedule for the deployment of the satellite-based in-flight internet connectivity on JetBlue starting in early 2013. The company has ratcheted up their publicity about the product this week, focusing on two key factors they see as making a difference to customers: the service will be FAST and the service will be FREE*.

For the FAST side of things, it is no secret that Ka-band connectivity is faster than Ku-band based on general spec’s. That said, the folks at Panasonic are suggesting that they can get similar speeds with their Ku system using spot beams to increase signal strength in specific areas. And I’ve heard rumblings from an industry insider that the effective speed for a user is relatively similar though the aggregate speed may be higher. No way to confirm those numbers really, but they’re what I’m hearing talked about.

As for the FREE* price-point, well, there is that pesky asterisk hanging around. Yes, it is true. Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s Chief Commercial Officer, indicated that the product will be free when launched early next year. But what hasn’t been quite as loudly shared is that the "free" part is, at least for now, a limited time offering. The free offer is, at least for now, only until they have 30 aircraft outfitted with the system. That allows JetBlue and LiveTV to make sure they’ve got users actually trying the system out to see how it behaves under real loads and that’s a good thing. But it isn’t necessarily free forever. Hopefully it will be, but I’m not holding my breath on that one right now.

Great news that the product is still on schedule for a deployment. And great that it will be free initially. But until someone says it will be free for more than the intro period I’m not going to be celebrating quite so much.

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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.