With the summer travel season nearing an end, Gogo expects to see its 2Ku technology get installed on more planes. It expects to end the year with between 75 and 100 2Ku installations, with an additional 350 to 450 2Ku installations in 2017.
The inflight Wi-Fi service provider has now flown more than 3,500 flights with 2Ku, which provides vastly improved bandwidth for airlines to provide connectivity to passengers, many of whom have been limited in what they can do on planes with Gogo’s service due to its capacity constraints.
2Ku makes a notable difference. Gogo’s service on flights using the older air-to-ground technology does not support video downloads, in-flight file transfers and other things that many consumers take for granted. But that has changed on aircraft where 2Ku is installed. AeroMexico, for example, is offering passengers free Netflix streaming.
One of the key attributes of 2Ku is it can be upgraded remotely without taking an aircraft out of service, Gogo CEO Michael Small said during the second-quarter earnings call on Thursday. Gogo recently introduced a software upgrade that more than doubled throughputs without Gogo ever having to touch a plane. “We expect to see 2Ku performance to improve even more to over 100 megabits per second in 2017,” he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.
Referring to 2Ku, “we’ve learned that it’s a great technology,” he said during the Q&A with analysts. “It’s exceeded even our expectations. It’s the fastest, the most reliable and the best coverage in the marketplace and for this early stage of its deployment, it’s doing extraordinary well and it will keep getting better over time.”
Gogo got into a skirmish earlier this year with American Airlines, which threatened to take its business elsewhere. And while that hasn’t been fully resolved, Small said Gogo is still competing for American’s business on some 400 aircraft and “we think the best thing we can do is earn the right for those 400 aircrafts by doing extraordinary well with the 140 planes that have been awarded to us and we are actively working to get 2Ku on those planes.”
Gogo has inked deals with companies like Intelsat and OneWeb to buy extra capacity. Small was asked whether the company would be interested in ascertaining capacity from a constellation like the one Space Ex is assembling.
“We consider all our options in the long run,” Small said. “Right now, we are very confident 2Ku is the best solution in the marketplace today and if an airline is making a decision today, that’s the right alternative. We will continue to monitor the market and go wherever the best bandwidth is available over time.”
Gogo's 2Ku technology is designed to be open so it's compatible with multiple satellite networks. It uses mechanically phased-array antennas that create a beam in the desired direction by mechanically rotating a series of internal plates with carefully designed resonance characteristics. Compared with gimbaled antennas, Gogo said its antennas are lower in profile and more aerodynamic, reducing the amount of drag.
Analysts at Evercore ISI said in a research note today that they believe Gogo remains well positioned with 2Ku attracting increasing attention, critical mass in the backlog and a strong balance sheet, enabling the company to accelerate the rollout of 2Ku globally.
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript