JetBlue and ViaSat prepare to launch 12 Mbps WiFi at 36,000 feet, a LiveTV tour

It’s a small miracle that you can open up your laptop and surf the web while soaring through the air in a metal tube some seven miles above the ground, but the experience is inconsistent, and when it works, the connection is often frustratingly sluggish. That’s about to change.

Once focused on undercutting the competition, JetBlue is now best known for its in-flight product: complimentary snacks, 36 channels of free DirecTV and friendly flight attendants (excluding that one who jumped out of a plane in 2010). This year, the airline is undergoing a service alteration of sorts. The traditionally all-coach carrier will soon cater to business travelers with a bed-equipped premium cabin, and by the end of next year, all customers will be able to surf the web from 36,000 feet with speeds that rival (or often exceed) what we’re used to on the ground. That new service, powered by ViaSat, is called Fly-Fi, and it’s hitting the skies this November.

We spent a day with JetBlue’s subsidiary, LiveTV, the company responsible for providing in-flight entertainment (IFE) on more than 600 aircraft, including 188 JetBlue planes and some 200 United 737s. If you’ve watched DirecTV while flying either of those airlines, it’s LiveTV that put it there, and soon, the Florida-based firm will be responsible for getting you online, too. Fly-Fi, and its to-be-named United equivalent, will deliver up to 12 Mbps of data — not to the aircraft, but to each and every passenger on board. Join us aboard JetBlue’s first Fly-Fi-equipped Airbus A320 after the break.%Gallery-slideshow90014%

Filed under: Transportation, Wireless, Internet


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