UPDATED to include following personal musing and express a tad bit of shock: One has to wonder if JetBlue ever thinks about how its connectivity statements might impact the business of its wholly owned subsidiary LiveTV, which the carrier would one day like to spin off. In a conversation with my colleague Lori Ranson, JetBlue chief commercial officer Robin Hayes said the carrier remains unconvinced that current technologies will be the most viable for the long-term, and that jumping in with current providers “might not be the right thing to do”. Um, seriously JetBlue? You own a provider, which is now taking orders for its Iridium-based system. Does the left hand ever talk to the [baby finger on the] right hand here? Sheesh!
LiveTV isn’t wasting any time in bringing its new in-flight connectivity system – based on Iridium’s fully-global Aero OpenPort service – to market. The JetBlue Airways subsidiary reports that it is now taking orders for the so-called Kiteline World product.
But in a world of high-speed Internet options (Aircell, Row 44, Panasonic), does the low-bandwidth Kiteline World service have any hope of making a dent?
LiveTV seems to think so. “We are pumped on Aero OpenPort. Our focus right now is the first flight later this year. The product has several markets that seem to fit very well,” says LiveTV
vice-president of sales and marketing Mike Moeller.
I wonder if JetBlue will launch the product. The carrier trialled LiveTV’s original air-to-ground (ATG)-based Kiteline service on a single Airbus A320, but opted not to go fleet-wide.
Anyhow, here are Moeller’s reasons for why adopting the new Iridium satellite-based service makes sense:
1) Aero Openport can act as augmentation (secondary antenna) for a Ku-band system – Aero OpenPort acts as a gap filler (lack of Ku-band coverage such as poles) and secondary route when the Ku-band antenna fails. No moving parts on OpenPort. Simple and low-cost terminal to add to any Ku-band system.
2) Aero Openport is standalone – For those airlines where email, text and messaging is what their customers need at a low cost. This gets them into the market for less than $100K for a full kit.
3) Aero Openport has great potential in the general aviation/corporate aircraft market - Huge potential here. Iridium already dominates voice services in this market.
4) Aero Openport has military applications - Just dream.
Iridium recently selected Thales as the hardware builder for its NEXT generation network of satellites, which will support higher-bandwidth functionality.
“There is great momentum now. We just need to get the word out that the product is ready and we are taking orders,” says Moeller.
Well alrighty then!
(Photo above from Photo_ZTYX Flickr photo stream)