Unfortunately for flyers, affordable aircraft-wide broadband Internet access is still at least a decade away.
Internet access in the sky for international airplane passengers is about to get a lot faster, for only a handful of flyers on select planes.
Gogo’s new 2Ku solution has started rolling out to a variety of aircraft in North America, and the company is satisfied with the effectiveness of its new broadband technology.
“The flight test has surpassed our expectations,” said Gogo CEO Michael Small on the company’s latest earnings call. “We are pleased to report that we’ve consistently seeing speed tests above 12 megabits per second to the device even with simultaneous streaming on more than 40 devices.”
Right now a Virgin Atlantic A340 and Aeromexico 737 have been outfitted with the new technology, which features a round satellite dish. While the new dish allows for legitimate broadband internet access, the tests show that it still seems unlikely that each person onboard will experience strong connectivity for the entire duration of their flight.
“We’ve been seeing for browsers on a particular device speed tests often above 12 megabits per second, even while 40 streaming sessions are going on,” said Small. “So we load up the plane with about 40 streamers and then say — get on, start browsing, and what do the speed tests look like. I would say speed tests are notoriously unreliable.”
According to Small, even the company’s older technology sometimes exceeds its normal speeds, and 2Ku is no exception. The new dish can also pickup TV broadcast data from a few sources.
Gogo is still outfitting dozens of planes each month with its older technology, growing the company’s incremental revenue. Its revenue increased 22 percent and its installations on regional jets in the U.S. have been particularly strong.
“Bandwidth is everything in our business — more bandwidth, more revenue,” said Small.
Small says he expects more European airlines to sign deals to put Gogo’s broadband solution on their aircraft. Since Gogo’s technology uses satellites, it works over oceans unlike similar connectivity solutions.
“The reason [airplane internet connectivity in] the rest of world hasn’t taken off like in the U.S., there was never a great technical solution to the problem of bringing broadband connectivity to aircraft,” said Small. “[2Ku is] going to work wherever their planes flies, and the bandwidth economics are now looking pretty good, the speeds are looking great. As soon as airlines figure that out, they’re going to start making decisions.”
Photo credit: Gogo showing off its new 2Ku satellite internet technology in Hamburg. Gogo