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Gogo Offers 70 Mbps for In-Flight Connectivity With New 2Ku Service

By Caleb Henry | April 8, 2014
Gogo antenna for 2Ku at NAB

Gogo’s new antenna for 2Ku. Photo: Gogo

[Via Satellite 04-08-2014] In-flight connectivity provider Gogo has unveiled its new technology development: 2Ku. Designed to complement the company’s Air To Ground (ATG) solution, 2Ku uses two Ku-band antennas provided by ThinKom under an exclusive agreement. Gogo claims the new Ground To Orbit (GTO) technology will deliver more than 70 Mbps, with room to go higher.

The new antenna can be used with any Ku-band satellite, something Gogo expects to help eliminate the signal issues found in tropical latitudes and other areas with high skew angles. 2Ku uses a phased array antenna, but is also electromechanically steered. The height measures approximately 4.5 inches — 6.5 inches if you include the radome — and is expected to reduce drag on aircraft.

“When you go outside of the North American market, since you don’t have the air-to-ground link, we have to rely on satellite link, and we do both the receive and transmit using two antennas in the 2Ku solution,” said Anand Chari, CTO of Gogo.

“They are up to two times more spectrally efficient, meaning for a given bandwidth on a given spectrum, you can pump twice the data rate using this antenna compared to any other competing solutions in the marketplace today.”

Japan Airlines (JAL) is expected to trial 2Ku on its flights. In March the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau and the United States Federal Aviation Association certified the airline to install Gogo’s Ku-band equipment on its Boeing 777-200 aircraft. Gogo currently has around 4,000 aircraft using ATG, and 5,000 using satellite.

According to Chari, the service is able to support streaming, enabling broadcast TV and IPTV onboard planes. Newer satellites and more trials will also increase the downlink speeds, he said, because the increase in spectral efficiency using current satellites will translate to future spacecraft as well.

“It’s fast,” added Michael Small, president and CEO of Gogo. “[It is at] 70 Mbps today, and it will grow in speed as new satellites get launched [to] over 100 Mbps.”

In terms of the uplink speed of the service, however, Gogo was less apt to provide a concrete number.

“The return link speed will depend on how much bandwidth we set aside for the return link, and typically I would say it’s about, let’s say a fourth of the forward link speed,” said Chari.

The new antenna is also supposed to reduce the frequency of bird-strikes because of its low profile and oblique design. Birds are more likely to be deflected, which probably does not mean much to them at 500 mph, but it will protect the antenna itself from damage. Gogo expects the service to be commercially available in mid-2015, following further trials.

“When we launched our in-flight Internet service five years ago, we were able to deliver peak speeds to the aircraft of 3.1 Mbps through our ATG network,” said Small. “About a year ago, we began deployment of our next generation ATG-4 service, which took peak speeds to 9.8 Mbps. Our GTO solution takes the peak speed to 70 Mbps in the U.S. and 2Ku brings 70 Mbps to the rest of the world.”