JetBlue Airways and LiveTV Agree to Talk Connectivity

JetBlue and subsidiary LiveTV have agreed to talk about the carrier’s WiFi connectivity services (dubbed BetaBlue) in advance of a December 11 statement. Thanks guys. Here are notes from my conversations this morning.

LiveTV vice-president of sales and marketing Mike Moeller says:
1) “When we stated this process, we sat back and … David Neeleman, our chairman, held up his Blackberry and said ‘if you make that work on the aircraft, you have solved the problem’.”

2) “This is the start. That’s why we call it beta. We want to make it better. We will continue to make software upgrades. [We'll] see what passengers like and dislike, find the kinks in the system and continue to make it better.”

3) “When you advertise broadband, people want to use YouTube, streaming video. Even if someone had all 4MHz (of ATG spectrum) it’s difficult to solve that.” [LiveTV has 1MHz, AirCell 3MHz]

4) “We started discussion with them [RIM] earlier this year. This has all been kept very, very secret.”

5) “The ultimate experience[for passengers is to have] a TV in front of them with 36 channels, watching the game, Blackberry is working, and look at flight attendant and have your beverage. We think that is the ultimate ‘died and gone to airplane heavy’.”

A JetBlue spokeswoman says:
1) JetBlue feels it has the capacity available to support the service because “at any given one time, there is going to be customers who are watching their television or listening to their radio …how many would press send at the same time versus composing or reading an e-mail?”

2) “We will continue to listen to what our customers want as we test current offerings available on BetaBlue and … based on that will develop a plan and time frame to roll out fleet wide.”

3) We’ve optimized the network for e-mail without attachments and for instant messaging [as well as] instant text messaging through Yahoo Messenger”.

4) “We’re looking at the next logical step in the evolution of our products, what connectivity we can offer. Shopping would be one of the next services we could provide. But right now we’re focused on perfecting what we’re offering – allowing customers to keep in touch with folks on the ground when in flight.”

5) “Yahoo as well as RIM have been a huge part of the development process with us. Yahoo is the number one e-mail provider in the US with 262 million e-mail accounts and they are a popular service. Blackberry is also an extremely popular service. We thought it was important to focus on brands that customers know and love on the ground and bring it to them in the air as well. “

6) Forging partnerships with the likes of MSN and Google to offer passengers access to other free e-mail accounts “is something we’re going to pursue in the future”.

7) With respect to satellite-based broadband service: “We could do it potentially, and we could do it with LiveTV but the business model for that is cost prohibitive. If you look at Connexion by Boeing, they had to charge customers $20 to $30 dollars and [customers] weren’t willing to pay $20 or $30 for that service. We think that is a business model that would be cost prohibitive to provide it for free to all customers and that is something we want to focus on to be able to offer it free for everyone.”

8) JetBlue does not have a time frame for the length of the trial. It will last “several months at least”.

9) Devices used by JetBlue passengers will need to “have an independent on and off switch for WiFi and cellular” as in-flight cellular services remain banned by the FCC and FAA.

10) JetBlue is not interested in eventually allowing passengers to use their mobile phones for voice calls during flight, even if regulations are relaxed. “We believe that our customers really would value a silent connectivity experience … We would support silent options like text messaging, but we’ve heard loud and clear from our passengers, and we will not be pursuing any cell phone usage calls.”

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