Last updated: 08:06 PM ET, Thu May 05 2016

Gogo’s Next-Generation of Inflight Wi-Fi Has Gone Live

Airlines & Airports | Paul Thompson | May 05, 2016

Gogo’s Next-Generation of Inflight Wi-Fi Has Gone Live

Photo by Paul Thompson

For many airline passengers, inflight Wi-Fi is a necessary evil. Perhaps you've used it as a necessity for work, or just out of boredom, but surveys have shown that everyone wants to at least have it available every time they fly. If you’ve used it, and have found it didn’t quite live up to your expectations, there is hope on the horizon! Late last month, Gogo announced that its newest Wi-Fi technology has gone live, with launch customer AeroMexico.

Gogo’s original network was fed by a grid of ground-based antennas, to which the planes connected as they passed over at cruising altitude. While it was a marvel when it was introduced, passenger expectations rose over the years, as they wanted an experience that paralleled the connections they have at home.

READ MORE: Gogo Address Light Jet and Turboprop Market

The new benchmark for Wi-Fi is, is seen in that perennial passenger question, “can I stream Netflix?” With Gogo’s 2Ku, yes, you can. I flew aboard Gogo’s testbed aircraft last fall with a group of other media members. Onboard, we were able to stream Netflix, YouTube and even live television shows. This was on a flight where every passenger was using one, if not several bandwidth-hogging devices. The trend for airline passengers is that many are bringing their own devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, so they depend less on bulky and costly screens installed in the back of each seat.

In a statement for the AeroMexico launch, Gogo president and CEO, Michael Small said, “This is a groundbreaking milestone for Gogo as it signifies that the 2Ku era has officially taken flight. Aeromexico was the first to commit to the service and we couldn’t be more excited to have their passengers be the first to experience this game changing technology.”

What exactly is 2Ku? Ku Band is a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum of radio frequencies, over which data can be transmitted. With 2Ku, the aircraft carries 2Ku antennas on the top of the plane: one for the upward (receive-only) link to the aircraft, the other for the downward (return) link to the ground. 2Ku is designed to be compatible with multiple satellite networks, and provide consistent coverage almost anywhere in the world, including over seas. In this case, Intelsat and SES are the satellite operators. The older air-to-ground antenna system prevented coverage offshore.

This Wednesday, Delta Air Lines announced they had increased their commitment to Gogo’s 2Ku for their fleet, on over 600 aircraft. Installation has already begun on their Boeing 737-800s and Airbus A319s. Delta says at least 35 planes will have 2Ku before the end of the year. 2Ku will also be installed on Delta’s upcoming Airbus A350 and A330neo fleets. All of Delta’s domestic fleet has Wi-Fi, as well as much of its international fleet, but much of it has Gogo’s older air-to-ground architecture at this time.

READ MORE: Gogo Study Uncovers Startling Need For In-Flight Wi-Fi

Currently, Gogo’s 2Ku system can bring speeds of up to 70Mbps to the aircraft, but with forthcoming satellites in the pipeline, the company says speeds of over 200Mbps are attainable. In addition, Gogo says its low-profile radomes (those bubbles on the back of the plane that house the antennas) reduce drag in comparison to other radomes, and can save airlines up to $25,000 per plane each year. 


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