aNewDomain — Last week Gogo invited me to its headquarters and on a test flight to check out the company’s new 2KU satellite antenna, and I came away very impressed. The above “windy” selfie was actually shot at B. Coleman Aviation, a private airport in Gary, Indiana.
The 2KU system (model shown below) uses two antennas that are half the height of the current KU antenna. One antenna is for the upward/receive-only link to the plane and the other is for the downward/return connection to the ground. The lower profile of the 2KU antennae will reduce drag and should save airlines money on fuel. Anyone who has ever tried in-flight Internet will be jazzed over 2KU’s potential because it offers twice the bandwidth. Plus, it is compatible with current KU satellites as well as the next-generation KU satellites expected to go online in 2017.
“The 2KU has peak speeds of 70+Mbps to the aircraft, Ku 30 and ATG 4 around 10,” said Steve Nolan, vice president of communications and PR at Gogo. Nolan expects 2KU to offer connectivity to everyone on the plane.
After an introduction to 2KU at Gogo’s downtown Chicago headquarters, I took a flight on Gogo’s research and development 737. The plane is named “Jimmy Ray” after Gogo’s founder, who began envisioning air-to-ground airplane connectivity back in 1991.
On the test flight, I was able to send and receive email and watch live TV on Jimmy Ray’s 2KU system. I used the three cameras to capture moments on the flight, and interview Gogo’s executives like Alex Moy, the senior VP of product inflight entertainment. I’m still editing my flight videos, so in the meantime, check out Gogo 2KU video streams on Vimeo which Gogo uploaded about a month ago.
On my flight and in the below video, Gogo asks everyone to get online with as many devices as possible. Can you imagine? I connected my iPhone 6s, my 4th generation iPad and an LG G4 phone. All devices had great connectivity, but what was really cool was watching a live soccer match. Watching live TV while flying is a thrill. I’ve watched satellite TV before on Southwest and JetBlue but not with HD picture perfect resolution like I saw with Gogo’s new system.
Where You Can Try 2KU
Aeromexico and Virgin Atlantic are Gogo’s launch partners for 2KU satellite service. Nolan said the planes to get the service will fly everywhere including domestically. With the 2KU system it means everyone can get online. When asked specifically about this Nolan replied: “Yes. We see this is a full plane solution.”
The system has been installed and cleared for flight on one of Aeromexico planes. Nolan told me it will begin Alpha and Beta testing and hope to have consumers using the service soon.
Gogo’s KU satellite partners are Delta and Japan Airlines. Air-to-Ground (ATG) partners include Air Canada, Alaska, American Airlines, Delta, United and Virgin America, which is installing ViaSat on its 10 new A320s.
One reason in-flight Wi-Fi has become pricier rather than less expensive is to reduce the number of passengers using Wi-Fi on a flight. Nolan said that the average price for a single session is $13, but reporters from New York told me that they have paid closer to $40 for a flight from New York to L.A. (Yikes, I would nap or read a book unless I was on a deadline.) You can sometimes save money by purchasing a Gogo Flight Pass in advance. Many are good for a year from the date of purchase but some expire after one month.
Connecting the Cockpit and Crew
Beyond 2KU, Gogo is introducing Crew Connect that will help Gogo’s airline partners communicate plane issues to ground maintenance crews in real time whether it’s a seat that won’t recline or something more serious like a toilet issue in the loo. (Okay, I’m not British, but loo sounds better than bathroom.) And the system is designed to work on every Gogo-equipped plane whether the system is ATG, KU satellite or 2KU satellite. I had not realized that pilots do not currently get real-time weather info and have to rely on what they see and what other planes report. Here’s a look at Gogo Connected Aviation on Vimeo.
Videos by Gogo. All stills, including awkward selfies, shot by Terry Gardner.