Gogo to tap capacity from shared Intelsat/OneWeb network

Gogo is turning to another strategy to boost its in-flight broadband speeds by partnering with Intelsat and OneWeb and using their as-yet-to-be-launched satellites.

philippe dauman

 Gogo is trying to boost capacity to give 
 consumers a better experience. (Image
source: Gogo

Under the new long-term agreement with the satellite companies, Gogo's next generation in-flight connectivity technology will be powered by a shared network featuring multi-layered Ku-band capacity on the Intelsat EpicNG high throughput geosynchronous (GEO) satellites combined with OneWeb's planned low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation.

Gogo says its Gogo 2Ku airborne terminal is designed to be compatible with multiple networks, including both the Intelsat EpicNG and OneWeb satellite constellations. That kind of flexibility "ensures a long-term technology solution that provides immediate benefits as well as a path to future network evolutions well into the next decade," Gogo says.

The move comes on the heels of Gogo customer American Airlines' decision to pursue a competing offer that improves over Gogo's service. Gogo still has a chance to keep that business by submitting a new bid by March 20. If Gogo can show it can provide a technology good enough as any rival's, it stands a chance to keep American's business on about 200 aircraft in question.

Gogo has intentionally had to limit what end-users can do with its service on planes because it lacks capacity. For example, it's not well-suited for video downloads, in-flight file transfers, application downloads, software updates and other activiites that require higher capacity. The company is on a technology path to fix those issues, and its deal with Intelsat and OneWeb speaks to that.

Starting this year, Gogo will expand its use of the Intelsat Globalized Network by purchasing additional capacity on Intelsat's Ku-band infrastructure, which it describes as a contiguous, resilient network within Intelsat's 50 satellite system that covers 99 percent of the world's populated regions.

During Gogo's fourth-quarter earnings conference call, President and CEO Michael Small said the company has the best global coverage today because it can take advantage of so many Ku satellites with the right antenna that covers equatorial regions. Because it's using the Ku bands, it also has redundancy.

Small also talked about the company's "open strategy" that will let it take advantage of whatever innovations happen to come down the pike, whether from OneWeb or others like the Googles and SpaceXs of the world. He reassured investors that the company is on the right track by offering an open architecture and giving its airline customers more control over the systems they choose and services they offer.

Gogo's Intelsat network infrastructure initially will include use of traditional wide beam services and the next generation high throughput satellite (HTS) Intelsat EpicNG platform, which is expected to enter service in 2016. Coverage will include HTS for the North Atlantic, Europe, Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Ocean provided by Intelsat 32e, Intelsat 33e and Horizons 3e, according to a press release. 

In 2019, Gogo's 2KU system will begin to access the world's first GEO/LEO shared network, an evolving service architecture that will incorporate the best features of Intelsat GEO and OneWeb LEO HTS capacity as the complete Intelsat EpicNG and OneWeb systems deploy. When the network is fully deployed, Gogo's 2Ku systems will be able to dynamically route traffic across the global 10 Tbps shared network based on coverage, latency, throughput and other performance criteria.

The improvements promise to deliver up to 250 Mbps per plane on the Intelsat EpicNG fleet. OneWeb's LEO satellites are expected to be the first satellites to enable high performance services at high latitudes and on polar flights.

Anand Chari, Gogo's chief technology officer, said in the release that OneWeb's unique constellation will not only enable broadband connectivity in the polar-regions and at high latitudes but will also have low latency because the satellites are much closer to earth. "Intelsat EpicNG and the Intelsat Globalized Network provide high performance services that will increase our service capability in this year and beyond. By using this shared network, Gogo's 2Ku solution will be capable of delivering hundreds of Mbps per aircraft over every part of the globe," he said.

For more:
- see the release
- see this Network World article

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