The next generation of Gogo‘s air-to-ground in-flight connectivity network is taking shape. The company announced a number of development milestones this week, including installation of the first ground tower infrastructure and test flights.
Deploying this first ground site antenna and leveraging our unparalleled ATG experience over 28 years will enable us to validate our design for a smooth product and service launch.– Dave Glenn, senior vice president of customer operations
Most visible of the developments is the installation of two antenna panels on a tower for flight testing. More antennae are required even just to get that one site into production, but the initial build-out allows the company to begin the process of validating the design and system performance.
The company also completed development of the 5G air card that installs on aircraft and set out on a coast-to-coast test flight to validate functionality and performance. Given the limited 5G network the bulk of the testing came against the legacy ATG-4 network. Still, validating the new antenna performance against the legacy systems is a critical part of the company’s upgrade path for existing customers.
Gogo also conducted a flight test and successfully established a connection between the 5G antennas on the aircraft and the 5G antennas on the ground tower, proving that technology works.
“The tests we’ve conducted and successfully passed validate what we modeled when we initially announced we would build a 5G network,” said Mike Syverson, senior vice president of engineering for Gogo. “Through the testing we’ve done so far, we now know that Gogo 5G is going to be better than we originally thought it would be.”
“What we’ve done is validate that our systems can talk to one another,” Syverson continued. “The antennas can talk to the cell site, which in turn can talk to the data center. There is a lot of software development to put those pieces together, and it’s all working very well.”
Gogo also reiterated its expectation that the new 5G network will be online with nationwide coverage in the back half of 2022. The company’s key competition, SmartSky, recently reported successful deployment of a regional network for additional testing of its ATG offering in advance of product launch later this year.
Separately, Gogo crossed the 2,000 aircraft installation threshold of its AVANCE platform, nearing 6,000 total ATG aircraft online. The AVANCE L5 installation rate is particularly notable as those aircraft should be able to upgrade to the Gogo 5G network with minimal effort once it goes life. Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne previously noted that the 5G antennae will mount “exactly where the old antennae are” down to the same screw holes. Early 5G upgrades will require a small additional install in the avionics bay. That requirement could eventually be eliminated as the systems evolve.
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