Gogo plans to use unlicensed spectrum for its next-generation ground-based technology to improve in-flight internet connectivity, promising peak network speeds of more than 100 Mbps, or about 10 times more than what it’s currently delivering.
The network also will use a proprietary modem and a new beam-forming antenna to produce those speeds, according to a company press release. Gogo isn’t disclosing the specific spectrum for competitive reasons, a spokesperson told FierceWirelessTech. It will use LTE technology and leverage Gogo’s existing 250 cell sites and fiber backhaul network, making it economical to deploy.
The company does not expect add any more towers or small cells beyond that existing number. It’s also not disclosing the equipment manufacturer it’s working with.
"Leveraging our first generation network is key to making this next generation network highly reliable and economical to deploy," said Anand Chari, Gogo's CTO, in the release. "Gogo's next generation network will also be backward-compatible with Gogo's first generation network, which means an aircraft will be able to seamlessly switch between Gogo's two networks similar to how a cell phone on the ground connects to the fastest available network."
The service is expected to be available in 2018. Aircraft outfitted with one of Gogo's earlier generation air-to-ground technologies will just need to be outfitted with a new modem and blade antenna to take advantage of the new service.
Chief Operating Officer John Wade told Fortune that because of its relatively small size, the air-to-ground system is aimed at business aircraft, regional commercial planes and jetliners that will not travel much outside the United States or over larger bodies of water.
The enhanced air-to-ground service has not been formally offered to customers yet, but airlines that have seen it were excited about the capability, according to the Fortune article. Starting in 2018, Gogo expects airlines to install it on up to about 800 planes a year.
Gogo has been on a roll to deploy its satellite-based 2Ku system on more planes, and it also can achieve 100 Mbps speeds. Last year, Gogo CEO Michael Small said the company’s No. 1 goal in 2016 was to get its 2Ku technology on more planes and allow for streaming video, something its earlier-generation technology could not handle. As of August this year, the company had a backlog of orders for more than 1,200 aircraft from IAG, Delta and American, and today announced that it will partner with Air France-KLM to connect its existing long-haul fleet representing 124 aircraft, with an option to install the technology on additional aircraft in the future.
The company said benefits of its new ground-based network technology for commercial aircraft operating within the United States and Canada include low equipment cost and weight, overnight installation and low drag on the aircraft due to the small size of the antennas. It also has big advantages in terms of latency compared to satellite solutions.
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