Gogo is gradually adding satellite services in an effort to boost speeds on its highly-congested inflight internet networks. It’s already announced a plan to launch a hybrid ground-to-air and satellite connectivity network this year, but next year it will go all satellite, offering more capacity to its current airline partners as well as support for international flights.
The new service is called 2Ku and it will make use of the extensive network of geo-stationary satellites to beam high-capacity transmissions to planes flying both over land and over the open ocean. At an aviation conference in Europe, Gogo demoed a 70 Mbps downlink connection to an aircraft using a new high-gain antenna design that Gogo CTO Anand Chari said squeezes out twice the performance of any service provided by its in-flight connectivity competitors.
Compared to the 3.1 Mbps of capacity – which is in turn divided among all Gogo users in an aircraft – its current ground-to-air network provides, that’s a massive improvement. According to Chari, that capacity will let Gogo’s airline partners offer not only just rote internet connectivity, but also allow them to sell services like premium on-demand video to passengers.
Japan Airlines is one of the first airlines looking at the new network, and several other domestic and international providers will likely trial it, Chari said. Still, even when the new network comes online, don’t expect to get the same speeds on your flight as you would off your cable modem and Wi-Fi network at home.
Gogo will buy capacity as needed from its satellite providers, which today include SES and Intellisat. So if only a handful of passengers are using the network, Gogo may only provision 10 Mbps to the flight. Bandwidth, however, can be dynamically allocated Chari said, so if a bunch of passengers rush the network, it can boost that satellite link to 20, 30 or even the full 70 Mbps of capacity.