Gogo increases in-flight bandwidth to 70Mbps

The new service will become commercially available in the middle of next year

In-flight Internet access provider Gogo is working on a service that will increase the maximum data speed on planes to 70Mbps.

Gogo expects the new service to become commercially available in the middle of next year, and before that Japan Airlines is expected to be among the first to test the underlying technology, Gogo said on Tuesday.

When Gogo first launched its in-flight Internet service five years ago the maximum speed was 3.1Mbps (bits per second) and about a year ago the company began deploying a service that upped peak speeds to 9.8 Mbps. Next, Gogo's GTO (Ground to Orbit) platform will take the peak shared speed to 70 Mbps in the U.S. and the satellite-based 2Ku technology does the same for the rest of the world, it said.

The latter is a new technology for the global commercial aviation market. For example, 2Ku antennas are approximately two times more spectrally efficient than other antennas in the commercial aviation market, which lowers the cost, Gogo said. The antenna is also smaller at 4.5 inches, which helps reduce drag.

Overall performance improvements will be more dramatic in tropical regions of the globe where other satellite-based technologies degrade significantly due to the angle between the plane and the satellite, according to Gogo.

The company anticipates the technology will deliver peak speeds of 70 Mbps to planes when initially launched and more than 100 Mbps when new so-called spot-beam satellite technologies become available, according to Anand Chari, Gogo's chief technology officer.

Spot beam satellites improve performance by concentrating their power output, but that also mean they cover a smaller area.

In addition to Japan Airlines, Gogo also works with Aeromexico, American Airlines, Air Canada and Virgin America. Today airline passengers can pay US$14 for an all-day pass and frequent flyers $49.95 for a month of unlimited access.

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