The deal falls on the heels of JetBlue's announcement last year that it will offer Ka-band connectivity across its entire fleet, working with its subsidiary LiveTV (and, like Continental, partnering with ViaSat (whose ViaSat-1 satellite launch is delayed, ahem, due to an unfortunate mishap at the factory.)
But beyond the big headlines, I'm sure some of you are wondering when these letters of intent (LOI) (yes, the JetBlue and Continental deals are both LOIs right now) will be signed.
JetBlue CEO Dave Barger gave some clarity on that issue today at the JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Defense conference, where he said the LOI with ViaSat would be firmed up in a matter of days.
Meanwhile, Aircell is pursuing its own technology path, which offers a Ku-band solution in the interim but ultimately leads to Ka, and presumably Inmarsat's Global Xpress service, due around 2015. I asked Aircell a number of questions after it's latest announcement, including:
1) How quickly can Aircell bring a Ku-based solution to an airline at this juncture (i.e. what's the earliest if a carrier wants it ASAP)?
2) Has Aircell applied to the FCC - and other regulators around the world - for regulatory authority to offer Ku?
3) Has Aircell reached agreements as yet for Ku capacity with satellite operators?
4) With regard Ka, what Ka satellites will you use for coverage over North America by 2013 (ViaSat's current and forthcoming Ka sat)?
5) When you speak of global Ka for 2015, are you referring to the Inmarsat Global Xpress service?
6) Will you offer hybrid solutions - i.e. ATG/Ku and ATG/Ka or, perhaps, Ku/Ka ultimately?
7) Will the upgrade to ATG-4 satiate the bandwidth hungry users, in your opinion (i.e. Virgin America, for instance, has said it will need a lot more bandwidth than what is currently provided by Gogo when it seeks to make good on its plans for 2013.or do you think domestic carriers like VA, which have eyes on big bandwidth, will make the jump to Ka)?
Here is the company's response:
We haven't announced vendor selection. We believe, as the world's largest IFC provider by a factor of more than 10, most vendors will be thrilled to work with us. We also believe hybrid solutions will exist; they will be unique and highly beneficial for our customers and partners. ATG-4 is a quantum leap, further improving our bandwidth leadership. Bandwidth demands will grow, and it will be our aim to always bring the best solutions.