16 years ago, when JetBlue launched its services, it provided a DirecTV connection at every seatback that set off a revolution in the aviation industry. What’s more, JetBlue plans to introduce a STV+ in its flight in 2017, with the launch of its new A320 cabin. The Thales Inflyt product features a combination of LiveTV and On-Demand content at the seatback android device with options to stream the content to passenger’s devices.
JetBlue is going to take delivery of their first re-engined A320 neo-family jets and the IFE providers have not yet been finalized. This gives them time to rethink their available options.
Currently, Embraer 190s and JetBlue A320s are equipped with a 36-channel LiveTV product, and the A321s has a nextgen 100-channel support – both supported by Thales, which acquired Live TV in 2014. Thales also have in-flight connectivity contract of JetBlue, which is powered by ViaSat’s high capacity Exede Ka service.
Major promoters of live television solutions through IPTV like Panasonic aviations, Gogo, and Global Eagle Entertainment are competing for the contract. ViaSat started working on IPTV seatback integration with Panasonic, Virgin America’s hardware provider. With a range of contenders for the position, they are in a tough spot to find the best vendor.
Experts argue that JetBlue’s A320neo won’t be fitted with direct broadcast solutions, which are available at E-190s and A320ceos. The hardware has considerable carrying and acquisition costs, where operating dual satellite solution for addressing different apertures and technologies for broadband and TV would result in complexity and challenge.
Receiving both spectrums underneath a single radome is more common these days. ViaSat received certification for its hybrid Ku/Ka band antenna configuration that is used on A320s for Virgin America. Cost of transmission via IPTV over the same antenna used for broadband connectivity is competitive, and the demand is strong, especially when television content is free.
Whether JetBlue chooses to go for streaming or keeps an IFE embedded offering for its A320neos, the number of channels required to meet the demand may be as high as the carrier is delivering at present. Besides, geography also has a key role in transmission, and as international flights mostly spend flight time outside the coverage area, this brings up the need of IPTV in flight.