In the past couple of weeks, we have announced a variety of technology news. The one thing these announcements all have in common is their ability to make the in-flight connectivity experience a better one. Let’s start by taking a closer look at the announcements, breaking down what this means for airlines and their passengers.
On February 23, we announced our first major capacity deal with SES. The deal covers satellite capacity on the SES-14 and SES-15 satellites. Satellite capacity deals like this are about the commitment a company makes for bandwidth. Satellites have a finite amount of bandwidth, mostly dictated by its technology and the radio spectrum. Additionally, companies commit to satellite capacity based on the location the satellite will operate in. Satellite launches are done with the goal of providing capacity in specific regions of the globe, and customers select a satellite based on the region it covers, the technology it uses, and of course, the cost the capacity is offered at.
The SES-14 and SES-15 satellites covered in this deal will be launched in 2017, and cover North America including Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico and Canada, as well as Central and South America, Caribbean and the North Atlantic. Additionally, we also committed to capacity on the upcoming SES-12 satellite over Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Russia.
All three of these satellites are High Throughput Satellites. This new technology (often referred to as HTS) provides much higher capacity than traditional satellites through “spot beams”. Traditional satellites usually offer service to their coverage area through a single “beam”. Think of this beam as the beam from a flashlight – a single flashlight has a single large beam, which may shine bright enough to light up the side of your house. The new HTS satellites with spot beams use 10’s of beams, and when you once again use the analogy of flashlights, these “beams” shining on the same area providing a lot more light. Spot beam satellites use these smaller beams to manage the available bandwidth far more efficiently – providing up to 100x more total bandwidth. Total bandwidth available for all spot beams on a current generation HTS satellite is often over 150Gbit/s.
Our second announcement covered the launch of a new modem for our 2Ku equipped aircraft. A satellite modem serves essentially the same purpose as your cable modem or DSL modem – it connects your equipment to the source of your Internet. At your home or office, this is the cable company or phone company. On a Gogo equipped airplane, the source of connectivity is the satellite antenna, and a variety of satellites in orbit. This modem is often a bottleneck in the satellite system . Even though the Gogo 2Ku antenna mounted on the top of the airplane is capable of unprecedented speeds, the speed delivered to passengers relies heavily on what the modem can process. Our new modem takes full advantage of the latest generation HTS satellites. When installed, this modem has the ability to deliver up to 400 Mbps to the plane, along with a variety of live IPTV channels. We expect the new modem to see commercial delivery in 2017.
Our third announcement also covers satellite capacity, but on a global scale. Satellite operator Intelsat is on the verge of launching the world’s first “Globalized Network”. This network combines GEO (Geostationary Earth Orbit) satellites and new LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites. The combination of the two brings the reliability of traditional satellites, with the low latency and global coverage of the soon to be launched OneWeb constellation of over 700 satellites.
What do these announcements mean for passengers on Gogo equipped aircraft? It means the Gogo network will have access to 1000’s of available satellites with truly global coverage – gate to gate, and pole to pole. It also means exceptional availability. Other operators in our industry rely on a single technology, often with just a single satellite providing coverage for their customers. This single source brings an inherent risk with it, as the loss of a satellite, or degradation in performance could mean an entire airline fleet finds itself without connectivity for as much as several years. The Gogo 2Ku solution allows us to switch to alternative satellites, always ensuring the aircraft and its passengers stay connected.
As Gogo expands beyond passenger connectivity with an array of connected aircraft solutions, connectivity is becoming more than just an amenity – it becomes an integral part of airline operations.
These announcements are all part of our open network architecture – a network that is designed to deliver the best possible experience, with the best coverage, and the best cost. Offering an open architecture also ensures an airline has a future proof solution. Investments in connectivity on an aircraft are significant, and airlines need to make their decisions knowing that the technology they commit to is one that it will be around for many more years to come. Their decisions also allow for connectivity through satellite constellations that may not have launched yet. The OneWeb constellation is a great example – this is a groundbreaking technology, and the first satellites are scheduled to launch in 2018, but the Gogo 2Ku system is already capable of taking advantage of these incredible speeds and global coverage. In sum, Gogo’s 2Ku solution will continue to bring more bandwidth to an aircraft over time at lower costs without having to touch an aircraft to re-install new hardware over time.