Faster In-Flight Internet Is On Its Way

Gogo inc., an airline connectivity provider, is planning to bring faster in-flight satellite internet to commercial airlines. In addition to a speedier connection, Itasca, Illinois-based Gogo is trying to create greater coverage for European and Asian markets.

How fast is faster? According to GoGo, their new 2Ku service is capable of delivering speeds of 70 megabits per second through existing satellites. But to make that faster, the company has bought large slices of Ku bandwidth from newer spot-beam satellites.  Once these satellites, which are already in orbit, come on-line, GoGo says in-flight internet speeds could reach up to 100 megabits per second. The new service will become available within the next 18 months.

To harness this new speed, Gogo developed an antenna that consists of two flat panels. One is used for transmitting, and the other is used for receiving. Its shape is intended to reduce drag as much drag as is possible when installed on the aircraft.

When new satellites come online, GoGo’s two flat antenna (above) could deliver speeds of 100 megabits per second. Credit: GoGo

Gogo Chief Executive Michael Small told SpaceNews that the company would eventually replace all of their older ATG-4 equipment with the 2Ku technology. ATG-4 harnesses internet from ground towers like cell phones, but this does not do much good for flights that have to traverse large bodies of water.

“This is a very positive financial transaction for Gogo,” Small said. “If you don’t like this deal, you do not like 4G on the ground and should be recommending we go back to 3G. This is the next generation. It allows us to continue to grow our business. It will help us accelerate take rate. It’ll help us introduce all the new operational apps. It will help us connect the crew. It will help keep continuity of coverage, as these planes fly to the Caribbean and Mexico and Hawaii.”

Many airlines are coming to depend on satellite internet as their main means of in-flight entertainment.

Gogo currently has a 69 percent share of the connectivity market in North America.  Their competitors include Global Eagle of Los Angeles and Panasonic Avionics of Lake Forest, California.

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