AA Has Dropped the Lawsuit, Will Gogo’s Wi-Fi Speed Up as Promised?
Photo by Paul Thompson
On February 12, American Airlines sued inflight Wi-Fi provider Gogo, and threatened to switch to a competing service offered by ViaSat. The news caused Gogo shares to plunge thirty percent.
In the suit filing, American said, “Providing superior Wi-Fi options to passengers is critical, as American competes for travelers who increasingly demand a Wi-Fi experience in the air that is on par with their wired internet connections at home or work, including the ability to stream music and movies on smartphones, tablets and a host of other Wi-Fi-enabled devices.”
Gogo originally offered its services in the domestic U.S. through a network of ground-based antennas stationed throughout the country. Alaska, Delta, United and Virgin America are the other U.S.-based carriers offering Wi-Fi via Gogo.
The nation’s only other large airline, Southwest, has been using satellite Wi-Fi since 2009, provided by another company called Global Eagle. One advantage of satellite Wi-Fi is that passengers can connect to the service from the moment they board to the moment they park at the destination gate, rather than having to wait until the plane is 10,000 feet up.
At the time the lawsuit news broke, Gogo said it planned to submit a competing proposal. American’s contract allows it to dump Gogo if they find another company offering a better service. And American says ViaSat does exactly that. American has 200 planes in its fleet equipped with Gogo.
When suggesting ViaSat could replace Gogo, the lawsuit stated, “After carefully evaluating the new technology and services in the marketplace, American has decided to exercise its rights under the Agreement and recently notified Gogo that ViaSat offers an in-flight connectivity system that materially improves on Gogo’s air-to-ground system.” American uses Wi-Fi provided by Panasonic for its long international routes, though Gogo offers that as well.
ViaSat has its service installed on JetBlue, United and Virgin America. You’ll notice a couple of these are already in bed with Gogo as well. American has since dropped the lawsuit, after Gogo issued an SEC filing on how to speed up their service. In the filing, Gogo said, “We plan to submit a competing proposal to install our latest satellite technology — 2Ku — on this fleet. We believe that 2Ku is the best performing technology in the market and look forward to discussing our offer with American.” Modems onboard the aircraft will also be upgraded, to accommodate the bandwidth, and allow passengers to stream video from sites like Netflix and YouTube.
Having dropped the lawsuit, signs are good that American plans to continue to keep doing business with Gogo. The product, 2Ku, uses next-generation satellites that direct bandwidth to the aircraft in what’s known as a spot beam. Gogo gets its bandwidth from two satellite providers, Intelsat and SES. 2Ku uses two antennas — one that receives satellite bandwidth, and one for the downward link to the ground. When combined with the upgraded modem, up to 400 Mbps can be streamed to the aircraft. The upgrade is expected to roll out beginning in 2017. Gogo CEO Michael Small says the company will submit their formal proposal to American by March 20.
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