Gogo to use 2.4 GHz unlicensed for ground-based system

Gogo plans to use 60 MHz of unlicensed 2.4 GHz spectrum to connect airplanes to the internet on the ground as part of its next-generation air-to-ground (ATG) implementation, Gogo EVP and CTO Anand Chari revealed during the company’s meeting with investors and analysts on Thursday.

Gogo announced one day earlier that it was developing its next generation ground-based technology using unlicensed spectrum, but it didn’t identify which spectrum it would be using. It’s also going to use a proprietary modem and a new beam-forming antenna to produce peak network speeds of more than 100 Mbps. 

The technology promises to offer a ground-like performance, including the ability to stream videos, for business aviation aircraft, commercial regional jets and select narrow-body aircraft operating within the United States and Canada. Gogo’s satellite technology, 2Ku, is also being deployed and delivers a ground-like experience as well to enable streaming video.

Gogo executives said the company's ground-based system will be a good alternative for smaller planes and provide a similar experience for business aviation and commercial flights where Gogo’s 2Ku antenna can’t fit. It will use LTE technology, but they didn't reveal too much beyond that, citing the need for confidentiality. The company will be leveraging the 250-plus towers that its first-generation North America network uses.

The ground-based service is expected to be available in 2018. Aircraft previously outfitted with one of Gogo's earlier generation air-to-ground technologies will need to be outfitted with a new modem and blade antenna to take advantage of the new service.

The company said benefits of the network 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.

Gogo has been deploying its newer satellite-based 2Ku system on more planes. As of August this year, the company had a backlog of orders for more than 1,200 aircraft from IAG, Delta and American, and more recently 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.

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