Gogo said it will launch a new hybrid satellite/cellular-based Wi-Fi service next year that it claims can deliver peak speeds of up to 60 Mbps, more than six times faster than its current peak performance.
Virgin America will be the first airline to launch Gogo's new in-flight Wi-Fi service sometime in the second half of 2014 and the airline said it expects to eventually upgrade its entire fleet of 53 aircraft with the service. The partnership makes sense: Virgin America is based in Silicon Valley and Gogo said in July that San Francisco is the top airport for travelers who take advantage of its in-flight Wi-Fi services.
The new service has been dubbed Gogo GTO, or Ground to Orbit, and combines aspects of existing satellite technologies with Gogo's Air to Ground (ATG) cellular network. The service will use a satellite link for receiving only (transmission to the plane) and Gogo's Air to Ground network for the return link (transmission to the ground). Gogo said it will be using a Ku antenna developed specifically for receive-only functionality, which the company claims will be two times more spectrally efficient and half the height of other antennas in the commercial aviation market. Gogo will seek approval for the new service from the Federal Aviation Administration in 2014.
Gog first launched in-flight Internet service in 2008 with peak speeds of 3.1 Mbps via its Air to Ground network, and around a year ago began rapidly deploying a new Air to Ground service that increased peak speeds to 9.8 Mbps. Around 1,700 aircraft still use Gogo's 3.1 Mbps service and about 300 aircraft have the 9.8 Mbps service.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, Gogo is not the only one making moves on in-flight Wi-Fi. Airline JetBlue recently received government approval to install a new high-capacity satellite link via ViaSat's satellites on many of its planes, which will let fliers stream HD video by delivering speeds of up to 12 Mbps to each passenger's device, not just to the whole plane. The airline, which previously lacked in-flight Wi-Fi, plans to launch the service on some aircraft this year and launch it on its entire fleet of 180 aircraft by the end of 2015, the Journal said.
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