Gogo created tremendous hype when it first enabled in-flight connectivity on American Airlines, back in 2008. But, anyone who has used in-flight Wi-Fi since then knows how challenging it can be to actually be productive. There’s a reason there’s a notice on the login screen that tells users the service does not support streaming video services. There are times when connectivity it better and faster than others but, unfortunately even simply reading and responding to email is often a burdensome chore, so much so that travelers feel the expense is a wasted one due to the low productivity. And let’s be honest, most consumer travelers aren’t going to want to bear the cost of connectivity if all they can do is surf the Web and IM with others. With the in-flight entertainment options available on many airlines, catching a movie becomes a more satisfying experience.
Hopefully, Gogo’s latest and most advanced modem, which it has now introduced to commercial airlines, will make the in-flight experience not only tolerable, but even pleasing. According to Gogo, the next-generation modem will increase throughput by a factor of 16, delivering peak antenna speeds of more than 70Mbps. This increase not only enhances existing capabilities, but allows for support of streaming video, while still leaving room for future growth, as higher throughput satellites come online.
While the antenna and modem improvements, including increased spectral efficiency, increase network performance and reliability, also reducing the cost to performance ratio, the low profile radome of the 2Ku antenna, Gogo’s latest version, reduces drag and fuel burn. At about half the vertical footprint of conventional aero antennas, Gogo says the 2Ku can deliver a cost savings of as much as $25,000 annually per aircraft.
What’s perhaps most interesting for frequent business travelers is that the new hardware also delivers gate-to-gate availability, meaning passengers no longer have to wait to reach 10,000 feet before connecting, and won’t have to furiously finish work as they near the same altitude on the descent.
The new modem is being retrofitted onto more than 450 aircraft already equipped with 2Ku or Ku systems, and will be the standard on new installations on more than 1,400 additional aircraft.
The enhancements aren’t going to turn your seat into a full mobile office – it’s not likely in-flight video conferences are going to become reality, not only for lack of convenience, but more importantly due to their disruptive nature in a closed environment. But, the ability to be connected the moment you are seated, with increased network performance, should allow travelers to be much more productive and hopefully deliver a much better user experience.
What happens if airlines start allowing streaming video is another story, even though Gogo claims its new hardware is more than capable. What we know from experience is, despite the cost benefits, the price for connectivity is not likely to drop, keeping the user base at predominantly business travelers.
Also, with Netflix already enabling offline viewing of content, and Hulu (News - Alert) promising to deliver the capability this year, the demand for streaming is going to be significantly reduced. And with Delta and JetBlue already offering live television, other airlines are sure to offer it soon. American Airlines, in fact, offers a small selection of live programming on select international flights. Regardless, technological advances are changing the in-flight experience already – these latest innovations from Gogo promise to make it even better.