Gogo Goes All-In With 2Ku
PARIS — Airline connectivity provider Gogo Inc.’s decision to go all-in on satellite capacity to broaden and strengthen its ground-to-air Internet service now covering North America is the latest sign that 2015 and 2016 are likely to be the breakout years for satellite-delivered aircraft broadband.
Itasca, Illinois-based Gogo, seeing competitors including Inmarsat, ViaSat, Panasonic Avionics, Global Eagle Entertainment and others move aggressively into aeronautical satellite broadband, is counting on its 2Ku service to expand its reach into Europe and Asia.
Gogo has purchased large chunks of bandwidth on Ku-band spot-beam satellites owned by SES of Luxembourg, and Intelsat of Luxembourg and Washington. The satellites will be in service in the coming 18 months.
The 2Ku service employs two flat-panel antennas per aircraft, one for transmission from the aircraft and the second to receive data from the geostationary-orbiting satellites.
In a March 3 presentation to investors, Gogo said 2Ku can provide 50 megabits per second of throughput with existing satellites, and up to 100 megabits per second with the new spot-beam spacecraft that employ frequency reuse.
Gogo Chief Executive Michael Small said the company would gradually remove its current higher-end ATG-4 equipment — which transmits and receives data from terrestrial towers — from aircraft adopting 2Ku. For Gogo, he said, it was an obvious decision.
“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.”
Gogo said Global Xpress, for which it is a distribution partner, should be capable of providing a 50-megabits-per-second service to commercial aircraft.Gogo is also a customer for London-based Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band mobile service, which is expected to be available globally later this year with the launch of the third Global Xpress satellite.
Gogo has been a regular customer of Inmarsat’s L-band Swift Broadband service and of mobile satellite provider Iridium’s L-band service as well. Gogo’s Iridium service delivers data at 2.4 kilobits per second. The Inmarsat Swift Broadband is up to 432 kilobits per second. Iridium Communications recently announced a suite of higher-throughput offerings.
Gogo in February signed a 10-year, 250-aircraft contract with Delta Airlines for 2Ku in February. Small said the Delta order brought to 300 the total number of aircraft committed to 2Ku.
In its investor presentation, Gogo said it has a 69 percent share of the airline connectivity market in North America when measured in aircraft already equipped, with 2,098 planes. Global Eagle was second, with 524 planes, followed by Thales/LiveTV’s 269 and Panasonic Avionics, with 152.
Excerpted from an article originally published on SpaceNews.