Flight Testing the Next Generation of Gogo In-Flight Wi-Fi

 In In the News, ThinAir


[Forbes] When it comes to in-flight WiFi, there is no doubt that faster is better. A technology that didn’t exist just a few years ago has now become a constant frustration to frequent travelers, as in-flight connectivity prices soar and speeds bottom out.

When Gogo’s original air-to-ground (ATG) network launched, which is available today on many U.S. airlines such as Delta, American and Virgin America, the bandwidth available was plentiful. Then the mobile device revolution happened. Streaming video went from a novelty to a necessity, and the ATG network simply can’t keep up.

Gogo 737In Gary, Indiana on Thursday, Gogo hosted the media to trial its next generation connectivity solution called 2Ku on board its Boeing BA -1.41{2634f6549ad5306d71d8397ee7200c50f6fd951977a62920a4afafb24a0132cc} 737 named Jimmy Ray. Gogo hopes that this system, which relies on global satellites rather than base stations on the ground, will solve the connectivity crunch.

While the most updated version of ATG promises speeds up to about 9 or 10 Mbps, Gogo claims 2Ku can achieve speeds of up to 70 Mbps today, and eventually 100 Mbps once higher throughput satellites launch. The aircraft antenna are a unique array of electronically steered flat panels, unlike the traditional mechanically steered antenna. Gogo claims that this is the key to providing fast speeds on a global basis.

Above the skies of the Midwest, Gogo finally flipped the switch, and about 30 journalists and social media influencers hit the system with every bandwidth intensive application in their arsenal. Periscope, Ookla Speedtest, Netflix NFLX -0.90{2634f6549ad5306d71d8397ee7200c50f6fd951977a62920a4afafb24a0132cc}, Facetime. You name it, we tried it.


Gogo 2Ku Speedtest – One of the faster speeds I was able to achieve on the Gogo 2Ku flight test

2Ku worked as mostly advertised on the test flight, and provided a great look into the future of Gogo in-flight connectivity. Of course, this was a test flight with everyone on board hitting the system as hard as they could, maxing out the system. The load latency was a bit on the high end, but once a page kicked in, it was a fast browsing and streaming experience. I experienced a few minutes of sub-megabit speeds and 1080p video buffering, but speeds recovered soon thereafter.

While connectivity speeds were relatively fast during the test flight, we will have to stay tuned to see if the system can keep pace with demand once the roll out heats up, and doesn’t fall behind like the original ATG network did. However, most flights won’t have 30 data-hungry journalists on board all trying to kill the system.

To date, 5 airlines are signed up to deploy 2Ku on parts of their fleets – Delta, Virgin Atlantic, GOL, AeroMexico, United, Japan Transocean , and Air Canada .

It is important to recognize that Gogo is not the only name in high speed in-flight connectivity to date. Right now, hundreds of aircraft are flying within North America using ViaSat’s Ka-band satellite system, which also provides high-speed connectivity capable of streaming video. However, that service is currently only available over continental United States until additional satellites are launched, while Gogo 2Ku is a global solution. Inmarsat has also recently completed a global Ka-band satellite constellation promising similar speeds, but is not yet commercially launched.


Article originally published on Forbes.

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