LiveTV remains on the fence about whether Ku-band-based in-flight connectivity is going to take hold. Indeed, the JetBlue Airways subsidiary is now looking at Ka-band and believes that “this network will finally deliver the cost and speed that is sustainable for a broadband service in the future”, reveals LiveTV VP of marketing and sales Mike Moeller.
Say what? This is pretty significant. But so too is the admission from Continental Airlines today that it is still shopping around for an in-flight connectivity solution.
Continental, which has begun installing LiveTV’s new 80-channel live television system on its domestic fleet, previously intended to offer LiveTV’s basic Kiteline messaging and email product to passengers (JetBlue is flying the Kiteline service). But that is no longer a forgone conclusion.
“Currently, we are watching the industry to determine the best type of Wi-Fi service to offer to our customers,” says a Continental spokeswoman.
Kiteline represents the first prong in LiveTV’s previously-explained three-pronged in-flight connectivity strategy. The second is called Oasis, which offers a “feels like broadband” experience by combining Kiteline with the stored content-upload capabilities of LiveTV’s wireless aircraft data link (WADL) system. Lastly, Ku-band-based connectivity could and would be offered by LiveTV if the market proved out.
To this end, LiveTV has bread boarded a dual-beam antenna to support television programming and Internet data. BUT it is still “waiting for the business to materialize”, says Moeller. It now thinks Ka-band is the space in which to play.
So Ka-band, you say? An Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) article gives us a nice initiation. Key info from Eutelsat CEO Giuliani Berretta, who extolled the technical virtues of Ka-band at the Satellite 2008 conference in
“Satellite is the cheapest way to transmit television,” he said, quoting a cost of about Є400,000/channel compared with some Є8m/channel for terrestrial systems, but a satellite optimised for TV “wastes power by transmitting to people who are not interested” in a given service. By contrast, he argued: “IPTV [Internet Protocol TV] is about transmitting to a person…and it is impossible to have a cheap solution with current satellites.” Hence the move to Ka-band.
Although he admitted there was “nothing magic about Ka-band”, Beretta explained that to produce the spot beams required for frequency reuse would require dishes too large to fit comfortably on the satellite. “That’s why you go to Ka-band…smaller dishes,” he said. As a key part of Eutelsat’s ‘Hot Bird video neighbourhood’ at the 13° E orbital position, KA-SAT is designed to provide broadband communications and ‘local’ TV channels following its launch in 2010.