JetBlue to launch Fly-Fi internet

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JetBlue Airways will launch its new high-speed Fly-Fi inflight internet service on 12 December with three Airbus A320 aircraft, airline executives revealed to reporters today during the inaugural flight of the service.

The low-cost carrier plans to have the system installed on five aircraft by the end of this year and more than 140 A320 and A321 aircraft by the end of 2014. Installation rates could reach 15 aircraft per month, the airline says.

JetBlue will complete installations of Fly-Fi on its Embraer 190 jets by 2015. The first prototype for testing is expected to be complete within a year, says Jamie Perry, the carrier’s director of product development.

The carrier will offer a basic version of the Ka-band internet service for free until June 2014 as well as a high-bandwidth version for video streaming for $9 per hour for video and downloading large files. The price for the free service after the introduction period ends has not yet been determined.

Although JetBlue has an approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide the wi-fi service from gate to gate yet, it says it will wait until January to introduce that functionality. Software needed to provide that functionality is ready, it says, but will be updated a few weeks after the initial launch.

Speeds during the test flight with more than 60 devices generally exceeded the minimum speed 12Mbps that ViaSat has advertised and users were able to stream videos with the basic service.

JetBlue is encouraging passengers to test their connections and post their speeds on social networks.