Gogo: Antenna is important component for in-flight communications

In case there was any doubt, executives at in-flight connectivity provider Gogo made it clear during their analyst day that the design of their antenna makes a big difference in how the company will serve the aviation industry now and into the future.

2Ku will use two low-profile, high efficiency Ku-band satellite antennas. (Image source: Gogo)

To be sure, the company looks at several links in the communications chain--the satellites, the antenna, the modem--for opportunities to make the service perform better, but the antenna, contrary to what competitors may say, is an important element. After examining other solutions in the market, Gogo ended up developing its own antenna solution in-house for its future 2Ku deployment.

"We have a few years' advantage with that antenna," said CEO Michael Small in response to an analyst's question.

There also was the question of why, if 2Ku is the future, was Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and JetBlue able to announce a month ago that they're going to deliver streaming video to seats on planes now using ViaSat technology? Currently, Gogo blocks most video, including YouTube and Netflix.

Anand Chari, executive vice president and CTO at Gogo, said he considers what ViaSat is using to be second-generation technology with limited coverage on a few hundred planes. When 2Ku launches, it will outperform or perform as well and will offer global coverage, plus provide cost savings for airlines.

Chari explained that similar to wired and wireless networks on the ground, Gogo's network for serving planes and passengers in the sky has evolved through multiple generations of technologies. Air to ground (ATG) technology allowed the company to get on some 5,000 planes, but it's too slow, and while 2Ku may someday prove to be too slow as well, it's the best technology for the job in Gogo's assessment. 2Ku, expected to be available the second half of 2015, will deliver 70 to 100 Mbps.

Chari said Gogo's antenna is a more cost-efficient solution for the airlines because it is about 30 inches in diameter and cylindrical in shape, so it won't present the drag on aircraft that airlines want to avoid. The fact that 2Ku is future-proof is also key because airlines don't want to make frequent changes to aircraft.

Gogo evaluates its solutions based on cost, coverage, capacity and reliability, and it has to fit on an aircraft. "We are really excited about this because it will disrupt global aviation. It is a true global solution" and excels in all the areas it needs to perform, Chari said. The solution also can do Internet and IPTV using the same antenna, plus it has some future-proof technology built in.

Small also discussed the types of services Gogo is starting to enable, such as having flight attendants use tablets to reschedule a passenger's connecting flight if they are clearly not going to make their connection due to weather delays. Or, for pilots, NASA developed an app that combines real-time flight information with environmental conditions that can suggest a better route during flight to minimize fuel consumption.

For more:
- listen to the webcast
- see this Washington Post article

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