JetBlue Airways on Thursday Dec. 12 announced the launch of the first carrier-based Ka-band satellite in-flight connectivity network with its Fly-Fi service.
The first JetBlue Airbus A320 equipped with Fly-Fi. Photo, courtesy of JetBlue.
The New York-based airline is rolling the new service out on three Airbus A320s initially, with plans to expand Fly-Fi across its entire commercial fleet by 2015. During the initial "Beta period," passengers can use a free, basic web browsing service called "Simply Surf" onboard Fly-Fi equipped aircraft through June 2014, JetBlue said. A more advanced live video streaming high-bandwidth service, Fly-Fi Plus, is also offered for $9 per hour during this period.
Fly-Fi’s Ka connectivity system is comprised of nine major electronic components, including the AAU, PSU, AMU and CRU, according to Roxanna Carter, manager of Live TV programs at JetBlue. The connectivity (Ka band) and TV antennas (Ku band) are installed under a single composite radome unit at the crown of the aircraft, while other Ka connectivity components are installed in the aircraft electronics bay and throughout the cabin.
Carter said installations are performed via multiple nose-to-tail modification lines with each aircraft taking “less than 1 week to complete."
The airline also performed extensive testing during the installation process to ensure there would be no interference between Wi-Fi signals emitted from passenger devices and the aircraft’s critical takeoff and landing systems, especially with JetBlue planning to allow gate-to-gate use of the network beginning in January.
“Extensive testing to ensure no interference with [the] aircraft's critical avionics was conducted as part of the rigorous process of obtaining a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) awarded by the FAA. Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI) testing was performed both on the ground and in the air,” said Carter.
Throughout 2014, the airline plans on adding the service to 15 aircraft per month, beginning with its A320 and A321 fleet.