JetBlue, ViaSat in air cabin broadband deal: report

PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. discount airline JetBlue is set to announce a deal with satellite communications firm ViaSat Inc to put ultra-quick broadband links on its 160 aircraft, Flight International reported on Wednesday.

The potentially ground-breaking deal would fit the airline’s Airbus and Embraer planes with Ka-band links which have the ability to transmit high-speed data and handle broadband entertainment, the report said.

If confirmed, the aviation news service said on its website that the installation would be the first of its kind in the fast-growing inflight entertainment industry.

It said the deal would be announced later on Wednesday, but the report did not contain financial details.

Neither company was immediately available for comment.

Dominated by French defense electronics firm Thales and flat TV maker Panasonic Corp of Japan, inflight entertainment is a major component of the value of a modern aircraft after the fuselage, avionics and engines.

The availability of high-speed links has fueled a debate in the airline industry over the cost and popularity of offering high-speed Internet and mobile phone usage to passengers.

Ka-band refers to a type of microwave frequency, allowing airlines to go beyond simple messaging and email toward the multimedia games and movies available at home.

ViaSat, which provides satellite and other wireless networking equipment for civil and military use, said earlier this year it was also looking at options for expanding its work for the Pentagon.

Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Hans Peters