Gogo to outfit Alaska planes with 2Ku

Alaska Airlines plane (Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines said guests can expect that prices will be lower than they are today for ATG service, with options available such as hourly and daily rates. (Alaska Airlines)

Gogo is celebrating a big win, having been selected by Alaska Airlines to install its 2Ku inflight connectivity solution on the airline's entire Boeing and Airbus fleet.

Gogo says 2Ku delivers an internet experience comparable to what guests have on the ground, including the ability to stream video from popular streaming video services—something Gogo customers have not always been able to do.

Indeed, Alaska said Gogo’s broadband 2Ku service will provide the speed needed to stream content from services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO GO while in the air. The satellite-based service delivers 20 times more bandwidth than Gogo's air-to-ground (ATG) product and offers the freedom of having Wi-Fi virtually everywhere Alaska's Boeing and Airbus mainline jets fly, including outside the continental U.S. to destinations like Hawaii, Mexico and Costa Rica, where connectivity was previously unavailable.

Gogo’s newer technology comes after years of sketchy Wi-Fi service on planes. Last year, American Airlines announced it was dumping Gogo’s terrestrial Ku-band internet service and upgrading the Wi-Fi on more than 500 domestic aircraft using ViaSat’s faster satellite technology.

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However, Gogo expects to gather steam as more planes get converted to 2Ku in North America. Earlier this month, CEO Michael Small said the installation time to get planes equipped with 2Ku is now under two days.

Small was also asked specifically about Alaska Airlines during the company’s second-quarter conference call but declined to discuss any specific deals at that time.

"We are excited to partner with Alaska to bring their guests a new onboard connectivity experience with 2Ku," Small said in today’s release. "2Ku is the leading inflight internet solution on the market today in terms of bandwidth delivered to each guest's device, coverage and reliability. We have market leading satellite capacity with the ability to continually add more to meet growing demand. We continue to innovate and improve the technology to make sure 2Ku will keep Alaska ahead of the technology curve."

Andrew Harrison, chief commercial officer at Alaska Airlines, said in a statement that the carrier conducted an extensive review to find a satellite Wi-Fi solution that has a proven track record with commercial airlines and will meet guests' expectations both for today and in the future.

"Our guests will soon be able to connect in the air, just as they do out and about on the ground helping make their travel time more relaxing and productive—whether that's scrolling through Facebook, checking email, or watching what's trending on YouTube," Harrison said.

Gogo's 2Ku service will be installed on Alaska's Boeing 737 aircraft beginning in the first half of 2018, with 40 to 50 planes expected to be completed by the end of the year. The remainder of Alaska and Virgin America's mainline fleet will be fully satellite-equipped by early 2020.

Gogo expects that by early next year, enough planes in North America will have been converted to 2Ku to meaningfully improve overall network capacity and performance, including offloading some of the demand on its ATG networks.