Detailed on the Gogo press room earlier today, the wireless Internet service provider is updating the technology on Delta Air Lines, US Airways and Virgin America this year in order to provide faster download speeds for airline passengers. Shifting from Gogo’s previous air-to-ground (ATG) technology, the company is moving to a new system called ATG-4. While the original ATG technology offered speeds up to 3.1 megabits per second (Mbps), the new ATG-4 system will offer speeds of 9.8Mbps. While passengers still won’t be watching Netflix or video chatting on Skype at that speed, it will offer significantly greater capacity and a more stable experience for all users.
Regarding the technology upgrade, Gogo CEO Michael Small stated “This significant step in Gogo’s technology roadmap allows us to better address the demand for in-air connectivity services. We know we have a devoted core of customers who depend on our service and who choose flights based on its availability. ATG-4 planes will have improved that service today – especially on transcontinental routes.”
In order to upgrade a plane with the ATG-4 system, a technical team with Gogo needs access to the aircraft for a single night. The team attaches two directional antennas on either side of the plane in addition to a second modem. After installing a software update, the plane is ready to pick up signals from approximately 150 land based cellular towers around the United States that have been upgraded to ATG-4 as well.
Gogo is adding the new ATG-4 system to hundreds of aircraft before the end of the year, so it’s possible that passengers flying Delta Air Lines, US Airways and Virgin America during the holidays will be able to take advantage of the faster service. Gogo also plans to start rolling out the new system on American Airlines and United planes during 2013. Representatives with Gogo have not indicated when the company will roll out the faster system on other carriers such as Frontier Airlines, AirTran Airways, Air Canada or Alaska Airlines.
However, the speed upgrade could come at a higher cost to the consumer. As PandoDaily noted during September, Gogo offers a variety of different prices, depending on the airport, when the passenger purchases the Gogo Internet access on the plane. The example pointed out by PandoDaily shows a price of $10 per hour on a cross-country flight from San Francisco to New York City.
If a passenger plans ahead before the flight, they can purchase an all-day pass through the Gogo site for $14. A more useful option for a frequent flyer is the Gogo unlimited plan at approximately $40 for an entire month of service on any carrier.
Competitors to Gogo include Row 44 on Southwest and ViaSat on JetBlue. Rather than air-to-ground technology, both companies offer Internet service through satellites. Delivering higher speeds than Gogo’s ATG-4 technology, Row 44 promises 11Mbps to passengers of Southwest flights. On planes equipped with Row 44′s service, Southwest offers a level of free access that allows passengers to check flight status as well as limited shopping and gaming options through a company portal. However, passengers can purchase Internet access on the flight at a price of $5 for all day service.