The rebranding happened quickly for LiveTV when Thales closed its $400 million purchase of the JetBlue unit. New signs were installed and some business processes were adjusted. But this is not your typical corporate buyout integration. For the most part the parent organization has allowed its new LiveTV subsidiary to continue growing without interference. That is a decision which, at least for now, appears to be paying great dividends.
Speaking at the group’s headquarters in Melbourne, Florida, LiveTV president Glenn Latta noted that LiveTV’s core mission of providing low-cost, turnkey systems is something Thales wants to keep at the forefront of the offerings; it is important to “carry that philosophy forward”.
But that is not to say that the value of LiveTV comes from it as a standalone offering in the Thales portfolio. The companies are integrating nicely with the LiveTV offering rounding out the low-cost end of Thales’s product line. And for LiveTV, having the backing of the multi-billion dollar aerospace company cannot be overstated. This factors in everything from accessing potential airline customers to securing the necessary deals in order to provide connectivity around the globe.
LiveTV’s inflight connectivity solution in the US is supported by ViaSat’s Exede high-capacity Ka-band service. Given the more cooperative nature of the LiveTV/ViaSat relationship today Latta believes his group is in a much stronger position than it was prior to the buyout. While Latta acknowledges that cost is one of the most significant differentiating factors LiveTV brings to the connectivity game he does not appear concerned about ViaSat as a competitor on that front. This appears to come from his confidence in the ability to scale the necessary support and infrastructure services better than in the past, in large part thanks to the Thales deal.
“Six months ago when we were owned by JetBlue there would have been more hesitation in [describing the ViaSat relationship]. Now, as part of a global aviation, high technology company totally vested in the aviation market there’s a lot of strength when talking to an airline customer. We’ve got 40 line stations around the world. We’ve got 100 airline customers. We’ve got a full portfolio of products. The key is customer satisfaction and I think we’re better equipped to do that than a satellite company.”
Latta also expects that the company will be the first to fly a regional Ka-band solution in Europe, though ViaSat says it will launch regional Ka with its direct airline customer, El Al, in the summer of 2015.
The Thales Ka offering will be on a Vueling aircraft, not an Aer Lingus aircraft. Despite the Aer Lingus agreement being signed 16 months prior to the Vueling one, the latter will be in trial sooner than the former. According to Latta Vueling is simply more aggressive about getting the service into operation more quickly and the companies were able to close on a trial agreement. There are still regulatory hurdles to cross but Latta expects that the system will be flying in 2015.