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JetBlue to Offer Fast, Free In-flight Wi-Fi in 2013

Travelers Today       By    Katie McFadden

Updated: Sep 18, 2012 12:13 PM EDT

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A JetBlue flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Detroit due to an unruly passenger that caused a scene. The incident was caught on video.
(Photo : Reuters)

Those who want to be able to use W-Fi on flights may be flying JetBlue more often next year. JetBlue Airways is planning to offer fast, free Wi-Fi on planes.

JetBlue announced at the Low Cost Carrier conference in London that they will launch their first free Wi-Fi plane in the first quarter on 2013. The airline will offer the free service on 30 airplanes.

The airline will offer free baseline connectivity service. This means that passengers will be able to use basic email and web browsing for free. Activities like streaming videos from NetFlix will probably cost a fee.

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An internal letter to the company suggests that not only will the service be free, but the Wi-Fi connection will be faster than any others offered on any other airlines as the connection will be provided by ViaSat. ViaSat claims that it can load 10 webpages in an average of one minute and 18 seconds, while other providers take over eight minutes to do the same.

The airlines are choosing this fast service to satisfy customers. The airline noted that a small percentage of customers are satisfied with current Wi-Fi services on other flights. JetBlue is hoping that customers will turn to the airline for its faster internet connection.

In the internal memo, shared by The Verge, the airline says:

"Understanding how important inflight connectivity is to Customers forces airlines that don't have Wi-Fi to get in the game, quickly. Airlines can choose ground-to-air services, like Gogo, or satellite-based services like Row 44 or Panasonic. Although the technology is different, the Customer experience is very similar - s l o w.

The challenge for us was building a Wi-Fi product that broke this slow, frustrating and ultimately unsatisfactory mold. We wanted to find a way to deliver faster and less expensive service that would result in greater satisfaction. With LiveTV partnering with ViaSat, I think we found the sweet spot."

JetBlue plans to be the first commercial airline to use Ka-band satellite technology.

"The difference is in the technology. The Ka-band satellite we launched last October is the latest generation, with capacity equal to 100 last-generation Ku-band satellites. It's smarter, newer, cheaper and better than anything on the market today for commercial aviation. This technology had only been available to government and private aviation, in fact."

It is not clear how long it will take for the airline to roll out the service and if the airline will eventually charge a fee for the Wi-Fi service.


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