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JetBlue to offer free in-flight Wi-Fi in Q1 2013

When it comes to air travel, internet connectivity becomes a major factor when a person chooses the airline to book ticket. Internet connectivity is a powerful asset, and a very valuable one for business travellers, to whom staying connected to the internet means everything. Often, customers will choose an airline that offers in flight connectivity, even if the service is spotty or expensive, and hence that explains the reason why more and more airlines are choosing to have in flight internet connectivity. This time, it’s JetBlue. JetBlue is planning to launch in-flight Wi-Fi in the first quarter of 2013. If everything goes according to the plan, JetBlue should be providing free baseline service for at least the first 30 planes in its fleet by 2013.

There are many ways to offer in flight web connectivity. The most popular ones are Gogo Inflight Internet, OnAir and Row 44. Gogo Inflight Internet uses 92 towers on the land that cover North America. The towers, unlike traditional telecom towers, are pointed towards the sky. OnAir is slightly different and makes use of Inmarsat Satellites in order to deliver connectivity using the broadband satellite receivers from Inmarsat’s fourth-generation (4G) system. Row 44 is similar to OnAir and makes use of HughesNet satellite Internet access system enabling them to provide worldwide services even over water!

JetBlue is said to using the satellite based service in partnership with ViaSat. According to JetBlue, this method should be offering “exponentially more bandwidth” than the competitors. The news was first seen on The Verge, and later JetBlue spokeswoman Allison Croyle confirmed that the news was indeed true and gave some launch details.
Airline’s plan for free Wi-Fi is a pretty ambitious plan. Most of the airlines in US which offer in-flight internet make use of Gogo Inflight Internet. Since Gogo uses land based towers to communicate with the airplane, there are some limitations and most of the times the internet connectivity will be slow. ViaSat on the other hand makes use of Ka-band satellite system, which claims to surpass the speeds of other satellite systems.

The internet will be distributed to users using onboard wi-fi, though the data speeds that can be achieved aren’t known yet. ViaSat’s Exede Internet service promises 12 Mbps or more to each passenger, and since JetBlue makes use of ViaSat, we expect the numbers to be the same. The free wifi which the airline is talking about should be good for basic email and browsing, and the customers may have to shell out money if they choose to watch movies. If JetBlue does manage to live up to its claims and give its customers access to fast and reliable WiFi, the number of bookings will surely increase.

Recently, even Singapore Airlines launched its inflight internet service. They make use of satellite-based OnAir system and there are two plans are available: US$10 buys you 10MB of data, and for US$25 you get 30MB, which is very costly.

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