LiveTV to spread its wings with global in-flight television

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JetBlue Airways subsidiary LiveTV is preparing for a global deployment of its dedicated Ku-band satellite-supported live television service for overseas flights.

Passengers will initially be able to access three to five channels of live television wirelessly via their own handheld devices or through legacy in-flight entertainment systems, said LiveTV, which is offering the Global LiveTV solution to airlines in either standalone form or with high-speed internet.

The ambitious move represents a major departure from LiveTV's traditional strategy. The company is best known for bringing DirecTV to the cabins of narrowbody aircraft operated by JetBlue Airways, United-Continental, Frontier Airlines and WestJet. LiveTV has partnered with ViaSat to install Ka-band-based connectivity on JetBlue and United-Continental aircraft in the domestic USA next year, where Ka coverage now exists, and will be expanded with the launch of a ViaSat-1 satellite.

But LiveTV is "being pulled" into the international arena, as interest grows for live television as well as high-speed connectivity on overseas flights, said vice-president of sales and marketing Mike Moeller.

"We've always been working on regional systems and we needed the right partnerships to be able to go do this outside the USA or outside the direct-to-home providers. Thales and Panasonic have dominated that space. So now, for airlines that have widebody fleets, and love television and want television on international flights, we have a solution."

For Global LiveTV, the JetBlue unit will "start with three to five channels, comprising sports and news and use all of the [content] relationships we have", said Moeller. Because there is no direct-to-home broadcast television service available over the Atlantic, and TV over IP is, in LiveTV's assessment, prohibitively expensive, the firm believes "it's better to get a [Ku] transponder, segment it, and push those channels over that".

Carriers will also have the option of augmenting the Ku solution with a less costly Ka connectivity service in Europe and the USA - where there is Ka coverage - and later, in the 2014-15 timeframe with Inmarsat's new Global Xpress Ka-band aeronautical service, he said.

Global LiveTV installation are intended "late next year", initially over the Atlantic. LiveTV has not yet secured a customer but is "talking to a lot of people", said Moeller.More from Mary Kirby AKA Runway Girl