Gogo to test faster in-flight Wi-Fi
The satellite services, both of which rely on low-profile antennas, could increase bandwidth to 70 megabits per second, Gogo President and CEO Michael Small said in an interview at the company’s Itasca headquarters. That would be a big improvement from the 10 megabits per second delivered by the company’s air-to-ground technology, which relies on a network of land-based cellular towers that connect to equipment on an aircraft.
In addition to faster download speeds, the satellite service also allows GoGo’s airline customers to offer Internet on international flights because signal transmission is not dependent on a land-based tower.
Japan Airlines and Air Canada both have agreed to test its next generation satellite service it calls the 2Ku. Virgin America, meanwhile, has agreed to test GoGo’s GTO, or ground-to-orbit satellite system.
The company hopes to have the GTO device in use by the end of this year, and 2Ku by the end of next year, Small said. The technology is undergoing FAA approval.
Gogo currently charges $5 an hour, $16 a day, or $60 for a monthly pass for use of its cellular service. But its 10 megabit bandwith can only support a limited number of users per flight, and GoGo sets its prices to limit demand, analysts said. That lack of bandwidth hampers its business, said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst.
But because its new satellite service will increase bandwith, Gogo might be able to lower prices, Small said.
“By the time we get to 100 megabytes per second it will be different,” he said. “We'll probably be trying to get as many people to use our service as possible, like other companies do.”
As international flights grow, a satellite service could help Gogo expand its market, said James Breen, an analyst for William Blair & Company in Boston. Unlike in the United States, few international airlines have contracts with wireless providers, he said.
Gogo has already reached agreements with satellite services companies, including SES, Intelsat and Eutelsat, to distribute the signals, Small said. It is working on getting permission from countries to receive transmissions in their airspace.
The company has permission from 180 countries, Small said. But Brazil, Russia, India and China are proving more difficult, he said.
“We fully expect to get them all,” he said.