LiveTV arrived at the show with the DeLorean time machine featured in the hit movie “Back to the Future” to counter critics that have repeatedly expressed doubts over the company’s ability to bring ultra high-speed connectivity supported by Ka-band satellites to the market before 2015.
“We had to go into the future just like Doc [Brown],” jokes LiveTV VP of sales and marketing Mike Moeller. “We stole the technology and brought it back to our booth, we went into the future, time warped it and brought it back.”
All joking aside, LiveTV is readying for a busy 2013. The company, a subsidiary of JetBlue Airways, is planning a mid-year launch of Ka-band-supported connectivity on an undisclosed European customer through a partnership with European satellite operator Eutelsat, which launched a Ka satellite about a year ago. Moeller says LiveTV is “actively selling in Europe”, and is gearing up to make a push in the Middle East after partnering with regional satellite operator Yahstat.
LiveTV seems unfazed by the fact that the debut of Ka-supported connectivity on JetBlue has “moved a little bit”, says Moeller. The company had hoped to launch Ka with the carrier this year. Now JetBlue plans to begin offering Wi-Fi to passengers during the first quarter of 2013. Moeller says installation on the carrier’s first aircraft should start in the next couple of months as LiveTV, its partner ViaSat and JetBlue work with the US FAA to gain necessary requisite approvals for the system including supplemental type certification.
Despite the delay Moeller remains bullish on the economics offered by Ka-band, declaring that a single Ka-band satellite offers capacity equivalent to a 100 Ku-band satellites. “No one can argue that point,” he says, adding that the ability to offer “blazing speeds” of 12 mbps to passengers makes Ka “a game changer”.
Those economics are allowing JetBlue to initially offers its connectivity offering free of charge to passengers on the first 30 aircraft equipped with LiveTV-ViaSat system, says Moeller. He says the carrier should make a decision on continuing to offer free Wi-Fi after installations are complete on those aircraft.
Moeller also touts the benefits of the ViaSat-designed Ka-band antenna, stating the system only has three line replaceable units, which will minimise maintenance of the device. He declines to offer a total weight of the system installed on the aircraft to support Ka-band connectivity. “Everyone asks about weight,” he says. “If you save a dime a megabyte it dwarfs the weight discussion.”