Gogo 2Ku inflight connectivity tested over the UK

Gogo's "Jimmy Ray" B-737 test aircraft and its 2Ku radome.
Gogo’s “Jimmy Ray” B-737 test aircraft and the 2Ku radome.

Gogo’s 2Ku Ku-band inflight connectivity solution has been tested over the UK aboard the company’s Boeing 737-500 test aircraft N321GG, delivering up to 25-27Mbps to the aircraft.

The B737, named “Jimmy Ray” after one of the company’s founders, took a selected group of journalists on a one-hour flight over London from Stansted Airport on Friday 1 April to test the system. “Get Connected’s” Steve Nichols joined them – filing this story from the aircraft itself.

For the tests, the passengers had access to 2Ku internet on the ground, through the take-off and landing phases, and while in flight.

2Ku is Gogo’s latest inflight connectivity offering, using two phased flat-panel arrays to provide better bandwidth to and from the aircraft.

It uses two low-profile, high-efficiency Ku-band satellite antennas and the flat, phased-arrays from ThinKom can be rotated to move the beams. Both antennas move together and the system can operate down to about 10 degrees according to Gogo’s chief technology officer, Anand Chari.

The proof - a speed test showing more than 10Mbps to the aircraft.
The proof – a speed test showing more than 10Mbps to the aircraft.

During the test flight, Steve used both a Macbook Air and an iPad Mini to see how 2Ku would stand up to the test. This included streaming video as well as general web browsing, emails and social media use.

An internet speed-measuring app was used at various points in the flight. Even on the ground a download speed (to the aircraft) of 10.56Mbps was recorded, with an upload speed (off the aircraft) of 0.57Mbps.

The slowest recorded speed was 7.2Mbps.

Gogo explained that during the test flight the data speeds from the SES-4 satellite being used were being restricted to about 20-25Mbps to the aircraft.

The technical crew were monitoring this at all times and saw a maximum of about 27Mbps.

The journalists tried to break the system with more than 40 devices connected at once, even though there were fewer than 10 on board, using up more than nine Gigabytes in total during the flight!

During the test flight web browsing was snappy and reliable. Streaming of YouTube material was also reasonable with some buffering at times. The journalists were also shown Gogo’s IPTV service and this delivered the BBC World News and OneWorld Sports seamlessly with no buffering.

2Ku technology

Gogo said at its launch that the new 2Ku technology could deliver peak speeds to the aircraft of more than 70 Mbps on the downlink and about a “quarter” of that on the RF link back to the satellite.

Gogo's engineers monitor the 2ku data throughput to and from the SES-4 satellite.
Gogo’s engineers monitor the 2Ku data throughput to and from the SES-4 satellite.

The company also announced last month that it is developing a new modem for 2Ku that is capable of up to 400Mbps. A Gogo spokesperson on the test flight said that this is just the beginning for 2Ku.

“With the new modem and the introduction of high-throughout spot-beam Ku-band satellites (HTS) we can expect to see even faster speeds in the future,” he said. “We are seeing great results today, but it can only get better.”

The ThinKom 2Ku dual-panel antenna is said to be approximately twice as spectrally efficient as other antennas in the commercial aviation market, which means it can produce more bandwidth at lower cost.

It is only 4.5 inches tall (6.5 inches with the radome), which reduces drag compared with other satellite solutions.

It was fitting that the test came on the eve of the 2016 Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg – 2Ku was unveiled at the 2014 event.

Gogo has said its 2Ku system is the solution that will keep airlines at the forefront of technology for the longest length of time.

By the end of 2015 Gogo says it had 202 aircraft flying on its global Ku satellite network and that by the end of the second quarter of 2016 it will have finished its Ku-band installs on Delta’s international and JAL’s domestic fleets.

Gogo President and CEO Michael Small says Gogo can then concentrate on its 2Ku portfolio.

Gogo's 2Ku dual Ku-band antenna promises up to 70mbps downlinks.
Gogo’s “2Ku” dual Ku-band antenna at AIX Hamburg 2014.

In October 2015, Gogo received an STC from the Federal Aviation Administration to install its 2Ku satellite technology on Boeing 737-800 aircraft operated by Aeromexico.

Small said in March that Aeromexico’s test aircraft is flying with 2Ku and providing “great data”. It also expects to get certification for 2Ku on Virgin Atlantic this quarter. Gogo is also hoping that American Airlines will opt for 2Ku to replace its ATG solution.

It now has more than 15 STC programmes under way and expects to install approximately 75 aircraft with 2Ku during 2016 and more than 300 aircraft in 2017.

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