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JetBlue taking Wi-Fi to the next level

JetBlue is thumbing its nose at other carriers who offer Wi-Fi on their jets -- like Dallas-based American Airlines and Southwest -- by leapfrogging current (slow) technology with better (faster) technology.

The airline plans to roll out its new Wi-Fi service by ViaSat in the first three months of 2013, and says it will load pages about 10 times faster than services like Gogo. The airline expects the ViaSat service to be so fast that passengers will be able to stream movies and TV shows from Netflix while cruising at 25,000 feet.

JetBlue has not made an official announcement, but it did update employees via internal email about the breakthrough. According to CNET, the email stated:

Currently, Wi-Fi on board is a competitive advantage. Customers, especially those traveling for business, with everything else being equal, will choose the airline that offers connectivity, even if the service is spotty or expensive.

Understanding how important in-flight 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.

According to a recent FlightView survey, only a small percentage of Customers are satisfied with the Wi-Fi service models currently offered in-flight and at airports.

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.

The best part? JetBlue's Wi-Fi will be completely free during its initial phase. Even after that, basics like email and web browsing will still cost passengers nothing.

By comparison, American Airlines' Wi-Fi rates start at $4.95 per flight and go up from there (unless you want the 15-minute plan for $1.95). Or you can get a daily rate for $14.95. Southwest Airlines -- which is much savvier than AA when it comes to customer service -- charges a flat fee of $5 for all day, per device.

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