JetBlue expands contract with ViaSat for Ka-band service

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JetBlue has committed $20 million in a contract with satellite operator ViaSat for Ka-band internet bandwidth to power its Fly-Fi inflight entertainment offering.

The carrier has more than doubled its commitment for the service to ensure that it performs as expected when it moves forward with its plan to offer it to most customers for free, says ViaSat, which is working with LiveTV on the launch.

In late March, JetBlue chief executive Dave Barger told Flightglobal the carrier is aiming to conduct its first wi-fi flight in mid-2013.

ViaSat says its Ka-band offering is designed to provide a connection of 12 Mbps or more to each passenger. Between JetBlue and United Airlines, the satellite operator has commitments to install the system on 370 aircraft between 2013 and 2015.

"A good way to characterize this amendment is that we're both putting a little more skin in the game because of our confidence that providing a really good service is going to increase the number of passengers who use it," said Mark Dankberg, ViaSat chief executive and chairman. "This is a great show of JetBlue's faith in us as we complete ground testing with LiveTV and move ahead to the first flights."

JetBlue could not be reached for further comment.