Gogo CEO: Texting is the new talk on planes

Saying "talking is becoming a thing of the past," Gogo Wireless CEO Michael Small told investment analysts in a first-quarter earnings call that its Talk and Text product is generating "substantial" business on the business aviation (BA) side.

"It's on many aircraft. We actually are seeing some interesting things like a very high percentage of our BA customers have chosen to add it," he said, according to a Seeking Alpha earnings call transcript. The usage of talking is relatively low. They wanted to have it there, but the world has moved on from talking. It's emailing and its texting. Talking is becoming a thing of the past."

Since Sept. 17, Gogo and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) have been offering free in-flight texting and voicemail capabilities to their customers on all Gogo-equipped U.S. airline aircraft. T-Mobile customers can send and receive text and picture messaging as well as visual voicemail over Gogo's in-flight Wi-Fi system on more than 2,000 commercial aircraft operating in the U.S.

Small said the contract with T-Mobile is still going and it has yet to make any announcements about a commercial launch. Last year, Gogo announced a partnership with T-Mobile to deliver free in-flight texting and voicemail to T-Mobile customers on all Gogo equipped U.S. airline aircraft, allowing T-Mobile customers exclusively to get the new in-flight service on more than 2,000 commercial aircraft operating in the U.S. Customers of the operator can send and receive text and picture messages as well as visual voicemail using their own smartphone and phone number over Gogo's in-flight Wi-Fi system.

In announcing the program last September, Small at that time said one of the goals was to engage the entire plane with Gogo's products and services, drawing a certain segment of the plane who might not want a full connectivity session but do want to reach out to their network on the ground. 

In other news, Small was asked about the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report asking the FAA to look into in-flight connectivity and cybersecurity. "We take cybersecurity very seriously and although you have to do capture to get on our service and that's one of the many measures we take, we go through rigorous certification processes with the FCC and the FAA and we work with various governmental and industry groups to ensure that our systems remain secure," he said.

Last week, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and JetBlue announced they are teaming up to significantly boost content offerings on the airline's in-flight broadband service, dubbed Fly-Fi. The airline uses satellite broadband service provided by ViaSat to offer streaming-friendly capacity to passengers.

Given that announcement, Small was asked about the capacity capabilities of 2Ku. Gogo is upgrading to 2Ku, which will have "as much capacity and as much speed as anything in the marketplace and possibly more," Small said, due to antenna efficiencies and the fact it will be architected specifically for aviation, rather than backyard dishes."

Asked about 2Ku interest at the Hamburg, Germany, air show in April, Small said: "We're getting exceptional response to 2Ku. As I've said over and over again, it is the solution that checks all the boxes; cost, capacity, coverage and reliability. It's the most efficient, it's the fastest, it's the best global coverage and it depends on many, many Ku satellites that are out there already and we've already placed over 300, really north of 350 are in the marketplace and announced already, which is a pretty good first year out of the blocks," he said. "There is nothing else in the marketplace that comes close to 2Ku and I think that many of the airlines are realizing that."

Gogo expects to get significant capacity relief in 2016 as 2Ku installations ramp up.

For more:
- see this Runway Girl Network article
- see the Seeking Alpha transcript (sub. req.)
- listen to the webcast (reg. req.)

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