Up until now, Gogo Wi-Fi has been powered by Air-to-Ground spectrum Gogo bought up back in 2006, which gave it a monopoly on that delivery mechanism. The problem is, ATG isn’t very fast, so Gogo was only able to provide speeds of 3Mbps to 10Mbps (that’s roughly 3G) per plane, and it only gets worse as more people sign on.
Gogo’s new system is leveraging satellites as well as the old ATG system and the result is — the company claims — 60Mbps per plane. Gogo’s plan is to take incoming data from the satellites for a speed boost, but use the ATG for outbound traffic, so upload speeds would still be slow as hell. But with download speeds like that, you might be able to actually stream video. Or at least get through most of the flight on passable internet. Probably not both at the same time though.
Gogo’s not the only one that’s been trying this approach. JetBlue’s Fly-Fi network is built on similar satellite tech. The catch is that it requires outfitting planes with bigger, heavier antennas, which is both annoying (installation takes the aircraft out of commission for three days) and expensive.
A future of 60Mbps flying Wi-Fi is promising, but it’ll still be a while before it rolls out. Gogo will be outfitting planes with the new antennas starting this year, but the new system isn’t set to be operational until the second half of 2014 at the earliest. And in that time, the super fast Wi-Fi is only planned to make it to 53 aircraft. But it’s a start.
Hopefully with more bandwidth to go around, and competition like JetBlue barking up the same tree, Gogo won’t be able to keep its prices as high as they are now. With higher speeds, it’s harder to argue that you need to keep the price so high just to limit demand. And, of course, who knows if it’ll really be that fast until it actually rolls out. But here’s to hoping it’s a step towards a usable flying-internet utopia, and not a world where there’s just faster internet that’s still too expensive to be worth it. [WSJ, Forbes]