JetBlue Airways subsidiary LiveTV has developed a solution that it says will allow carriers to offer free in-flight email on flights operated anywhere in the world, and will also prove attractive to business aircraft operators.
The so-called Kiteline World solution, unveiled at the recent World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition in Palm Springs, California, brings together LiveTV's US domestic air-to-ground (ATG)-based Kiteline email service and Iridium's Openport satellite communications service for a cost-effective, pay-per-megabyte plan for data transfer.
"We have been working on this for some time with Iridium for the development," reveals LiveTV vice-president of marketing and sales Mike Moeller.
A new Kiteline World antenna will be flight tested in the third quarter of 2010, he says.
LiveTV estimates that an airline could expect to pay an estimated $95 to provide Kiteline World to a 200-seat aircraft - at 80% load factor, and 30% take-up - on a seven-hour flight. This capital cost assumes an amortization of over five years and two turns per day per aircraft.
At such a price, airlines could offer in-flight email for free on flights operated globally, including over the poles, says Moeller.
General aviation (GA) operators are also being targeted for the service. "For the GA space, we are taking orders with a full system cost (antenna down to Wi-Fi in cabin) for less than $100,000," says Moeller. "We believe this provides a very competitive price solution compared to Inmarsat of approximately one fourth of their cost."
Asked to respond to Moeller's comment, Inmarsat's head of marketing aeronautical business, Lars Ringertz says: "I don't know where they get their pricing from. There are a number of Inmarsat hardware manufacturers, which are selling the whole kit for under $100,000 and that's just list price so why would you go for a limited solution when you can get a single-channel SwiftBroadband solution, which offers you all the opportunities of not only doing email, but Wi-Fi in the cabin and Internet?"
LiveTV's Kiteline World antenna and radio will be on display this week at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) annual meeting and convention in Orlando, Florida.