JetBlue to detail in-flight connectivity strategy this summer

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JetBlue Airways is evaluating various in-flight connectivity options, and says it expects to announce details of its strategy this summer, as news surfaces that the carrier's LiveTV subsidiary is no longer pursuing its air-to-ground (ATG)-based Kiteline solution for the US commercial sector.

Since December 2007, New York-based JetBlue has been offering LiveTV's Kiteline email and messaging service for free to passengers on board a single Airbus A320 dubbed BetaBlue. Customers also have the option to search a customised in-flight version of Amazon.com.

Asked by ATI to respond to an online report that Kiteline has been shelved, JetBlue says in a statement: "After our successful trial on BetaBlue, we are committed to rolling connectivity out to more aircraft. Our connectivity strategy has always been to provide a relevant, quality product that offers variety and freshness while taking a wait-and-see approach to this new technology space."

Adds JetBlue: "We have been in contact with several companies to analyse all available opportunities for enhancing the customer experience. We expect to have more exciting news to share this summer."

Pressed for further clarification on whether or not the airline intends to specifically roll out Kiteline on additional aircraft, as previously announced by the carrier, a JetBlue spokeswoman says: "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."

LiveTV did not provide comment. However, a source has corroborated the online report, saying the company is no longer pursuing Kiteline, which is supported by the 1MHz slice of ATG spectrum that LiveTV acquired during the US Federal Communications Commission's 2006 auction of 4HHz of spectrum in the 800MHz band allocated to ATG services.

During the auction, Aircell acquired an exclusive 3MHz broadband license, which supports its Gogo in-flight Internet solution. Gogo is now in service on several hundred aircraft in the US fleet.

JetBlue carries LiveTV's 36-channel seat-back live television systems on all its aircraft. Last year the carrier said it planned to offer Kiteline on 20 further aircraft in addition to BetaBlue. Continental Airlines, which is equipping its Boeing domestic aircraft with LiveTV's latest-generation live television system, also made plans to experiment with Kiteline on roughly 30 of its narrowbody aircraft.

Continental later announced a deal with Aircell to equip 21 Boeing 757-300s with Gogo.

Lately, LiveTV has been advertising a 'Kiteline World' in-flight connectivity solution. Kiteline World is based on Iridium's new OpenPort service, which was originally engineered for the maritime market.