Will American Airlines go with Gogo’s 2Ku solution?

Gogo's "2Ku" dual Ku-band antenna promises up to 70mbps downlinks.
Gogo’s “2Ku” dual Ku-band antenna.

Gogo has responded to American Airline’s request for faster inflight connectivity by saying it will offer its 2Ku solution.

On 4 February 2016 American Airlines sent Gogo a letter notifying it that it intended to invoke provisions in their agreement saying it may give Gogo notice that it might move to an alternative inflight connectivity provider that could supply a faster service.

Under the letter, American said it may give Gogo notice of at least 60 days of termination of its agreement with respect to the approximately 200 aircraft that are the subject of the notice.

The aircraft in question are fitted with Gogo’s Air-to-Ground (ATG) solution.

The system uses a network of land-based radio towers and antennas mounted on the underside of the aircraft.

When “Get Connected” tested the ATG system on a Delta aircraft in 2014 it provided speeds to the aircraft of between about 0.1-20Mbps. An average of at least 5-10Mbps was usually achievable across the entire flight, although it did vary dramatically.

Gogo has now issued an “8-K letter” through the US SEC saying “American is a valued customer, and Gogo looks forward to presenting a proposal to install 2Ku, our latest satellite technology, on the aircraft that are the subject of the AA Letter.”

2Ku was launched at Aircraft Interiors Hamburg in April 2014. The antennas are flat, phased arrays from ThinKom that can be rotated to move the beams. Both antennas move together and the system can operate down to about 10 degrees according to the company’s chief technology officer, Anand Chari.

Gogo 2Ku

Gogo says 2Ku is capable of “matching or exceeding the bandwidth of any other system currently offered”. As part of the flight testing of 2Ku, Gogo simultaneously streamed videos on more than 40 devices while providing a browsing experience on additional devices.

In November 2015, it announced that speed test results of its new 2Ku satellite antenna showed it can consistently deliver speeds above 12 Mbps to a passenger, even if simultaneously streaming videos.

During a test flight that same month journalists used the 2Ku dual flat panel phased array antenna to access bandwidth-hungry applications on the internet. Jason Rabinowitz for “Forbes” recorded download speeds of up to 24Mbps.

Gogo says the technology also benefits from the global coverage and redundancy of the more than 180 satellites in the Ku-band. In addition, the company says the proprietary antenna design gives 2Ku a significant cost advantage over any other global solution.

But American has other options, such as Thales/ViaSat’s regional Ka-band offering that the companies claims can provide 12Mbps to every passenger seat.

And Inmarsat’s Ka-band GX Aviation system is about to be rolled out, offering up to around 30-50Mbps to the aircraft.

Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) with its Ku-band offering would also be interested in pitching, given the chance, as would Panasonic and its Ku-band GCS solution.

Whatever American Airlines decides to do, it will involve removing the original ATG equipment from the 200 aircraft and fitting a new flat-panel antenna to the top of the fuselage, be it Ku or Ka-band, Gogo, Thales, Inmarsat, GEE or Panasonic.

So the exercise becomes one of logistics and economics.

Gogo now has 45 days from 4 February to provide American with a competitive proposal using its 2Ku solution.

Gogo: www.gogoair.com 

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