ViaSat satellite launch brings JetBlue, United closer to connectivity

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JetBlue Airways and United-Continental are one step closer to offering Ka-band-supported in-flight connectivity to passengers with the announcement that ViaSat's new high-capacity satellite, ViaSat-1, will launch next week.

ViaSat-1 was expected to be launched into orbit on 29 September. However, just over a month before launch, a Russian-built Proton rocket experienced a launch failure resulting in the loss of an unrelated satellite, which pushed back the scheduled launch of ViaSat-1.

In a statement today, ViaSat said its Ka-band satellite will launch on 19 October, and "is designed to transform the economics and quality of service that satellite broadband can provide, with the capacity to serve the accelerating growth in bandwidth demand for multimedia Internet access over the next decade and enable satellite to compete with terrestrial alternatives".

The high-capacity Ka-band spot beam satellite has planned coverage over North America and Hawaii. With a capacity estimated at 140Gbps, ViaSat-1 "will become the highest capacity satellite in the world once it is safely on orbit", claimed ViaSat.

ViaSat is working with JetBlue unit LiveTV to bring Ka-band-supported connectivity to JetBlue's entire fleet and some 200 United-Continental domestic aircraft. Installation of the required connectivity kit on JetBlue aircraft is expected to start next year.

United-Continental currently offers Gogo's air-to-ground-based connectivity solution on a dozen Boeing 757s.