"It's not a Mercedes but it's a damn good Honda."
That's what LiveTV's Scott Easterline told me at the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition in September 2006, following the JetBlue subsidiary's $7.02 million acquisition of a 1MHz slice of air-to-ground (ATG) spectrum during the US Federal Communications Commission's auction of ATG licenses.
It turns out that license was more like a lemon...at least from a commercial air transport standpoint (we'll talk about GA later).
Yesterday, the Wandering Aramean blog broke the story that LiveTV's Kiteline service - available on a single JetBlue Airbus A320 since December 2007 and talked about in-depth here - was a dead duck.
I contacted LiveTV about Wandering's scoop, but when I still didn't have clarity today, I contacted JetBlue, which confirmed it is looking elsewhere for a connectivity solution (and will announce something this summer), but directed me back to LiveTV to discuss the fate of Kiteline.
Key quote from JetBlue:
"At this time, we're still evaluating what's possible so we don't have anything further to share. LiveTV is a separate company so you would need to follow-up with LiveTV directly. BetaBlue is still flying and offering connectivity for our customers."A separate company? Ummmm, that's a little bit of a stretch. LiveTV is a wholly-owned subsidiary of JetBlue. If you're going to shout about the joys of Kiteline care of LiveTV in 2007, don't you think readers - and consumers - have a right to know about its status today? Vagaries are a little too convenient, me thinks.
That being said, the writing has been on the wall for Kiteline for some time. The company's marketing head Mike Moeller didn't even mention the product at the recent Satellite 2010 conference. Instead he spoke about Kiteline World/Aero Openport via Iridium for commercial fleets.
But was LiveTV's $7.02 million bid for that 1MHz slice at auction all in vein? Not entirely. I understand the firm's general aviation business, which is supported by that spectrum and the former Airfone network, is ticking along. And LiveTV is rolling out its Blackberry on Board (BOB) product for GA customers of its Magnastar telephone system.
Still, as far as the ATG-based Kiteline commercial air transport product is concerned, let's call a spade a spade. And a lemon a lemon.
(Photo above from Dr. Keat's Flickr photo stream)