JetBlue Fly-Fi In-flight Wi-Fi – Review and First Look
SOMEWHERE OVER NEW ENGLAND—My first in-flight Internet experience goes back roughly nine years to a Lufthansa flight and the German flag carrier’s FlyNet system that was using Boeing’s groundbreaking but ill-fated Connexion by Boeing technology.
While Connexion by Boeing shut down at the end of 2006, other companies stepped in to fill the void.
American Airlines became the first U.S. airline to offer domestic Wi-Fi, back in 2008.
Now JetBlue is launching its Fly-Fi service and this review is being written (and published) from the inaugural flight. Fly-Fi offers free basic low-bandwidth Internet to all passengers and optional high-speed Internet at $9.95 per hour.
The high-speed option supports downloading large files and streaming movies, among other things. I was also able to write this review and upload it to our publishing system.
The JetBlue system uses ViaSat’s Ka-band satellite connectivity, which is significantly faster than the air-to-ground systems used by most airlines. It’s also more susceptible to a loss of signal strength in rainy conditions. The system itself was designed by ViaSat.
In an interview with Frequent Business Traveler earlier this year, a spokesman for ViaSat said that the ViaSat system will deliver a guaranteed 12 Mbps to each user, adding that there is more than sufficient bandwidth to support every single passenger on any given aircraft at that speed.
Fly-Fi launched on three aircraft Wednesday and JetBlue will add two more by the end of the year. The airline plans to have more than 140 of its Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft equipped with Fly-Fi by the end of 2014. JetBlue’s Embraer 190 fleet will be fully Fly-Fi equipped by the end of 2015.
USING JETBLUE’S FLY-FI IN-FLIGHT INTERNET
The system became available once we hit 10,000 feet. (A JetBlue spokesman told me that it expects to support gate-to-gate use of Fly-Fi by the start of 2014.) Our flight plan is to go along Long Island, up the east coast towards Bangor, Maine and then return to JFK.
Available at altitudes of 10,000 feet and above, my first few tests showed speeds ranging from 3.4 Mbps to 28.53 Mbps downstream, while upstream was much slower, ranging from 0.49 to 0.59.
I was able to watch videos and movies as well as to use video conferencing tools although it’s been occasionally choppy.
JetBlue says it has been working on this for over three years with LiveTV, and that it’s eight times faster than other in-flight Wi-Fi offerings. Indeed, it’s capable of delivering more bandwidth to a single passenger than what most other systems deliver to the entire aircraft.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)