AA: Gogo’s Out, ViaSat’s in for Newest Fleet’s Wi-Fi
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Many flyers are familiar with using Wi-Fi on planes these days, and often take its presence for granted. And chances are that if you’ve ever used Wi-Fi on a plane, you’ve found your experience frustrating or inadequate at some point. Frequent frustrations are what have driven American Airlines to switch providers for Wi-Fi on its upcoming fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
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In February, American Airlines sued current Wi-Fi provider, Gogo, citing a high number of complaints about slow and inconsistent service. American filed the lawsuit in hopes of getting out of its contract, which would allow the selection of a different provider. American made it clear at the time that it was entertaining offers from competitors who offer “faster and cheaper” connectivity. However, an amicable solution was reached just a week later, when American decided to upgrade the Gogo systems on a portion of its fleet to a new satellite-based system.
Now just a few months later, American has announced that it has chosen Carlsbad, California-based ViaSat as the Wi-Fi provider for its Boeing 737 MAX fleet. As American phases out older planes, Gogo’s footprint at American will be reduced.
I flew on a Virgin America flight with ViaSat Wi-Fi in March, and the overall experience was the best I’ve ever had on a commercial flight. The connection speed was robust enough to stream Netflix — the gold standard in airplane Wi-Fi these days. Travelers don’t always care watch a random movie provided by the airline that they missed while in theaters. Most would rather spend their few airborne hours binge watching “House of Cards.”
“Our satellite bandwidth enables ‘an at home’ Internet experience that can serve everyone on the plane — and empowers innovative business models for airlines and their passengers,” said Mark Dankberg, ViaSat chairman and CEO. “We are delighted and honored to have the opportunity to work with American Airlines and help fulfill their goal of delivering the best in-flight Wi-Fi experience throughout their fleet.”
ViaSat has distinguished itself by being forward-thinking and adding capacity before it’s needed, realizing that passengers’ needs in the future are only going to get more and more bandwidth-intensive. In addition, ViaSat’s own satellites provide service to its network, while Gogo leases bandwidth and shares satellites with other companies.
The company has an aggressive plan of launching new satellites, and will have more satellite capacity in orbit than any other provider. When American’s first 737 MAX enters service with ViaSat Wi-Fi in September 2017, American will leverage ViaSat’s two generations of satellites already in service — ViaSat 1 and ViaSat 2. ViaSat says passengers can expect 12-20 mbps speed to each device, which is unmatched by any other provider. In 2019, the next generation ViaSat 3 satellite is scheduled to launch, and will again double their current capacity. ViaSat 3 will be capable of transmitting over 1,000 gbps total capacity.
More by Paul Thompson
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