Many travelers in the US will soon have a bit of increased inflight wifi coverage. Gogo is adjusting its air-to-ground network to deliver service starting at 3,000 feet altitude rather than 10,000 feet. The change will take effect on 20 July 2020 across nearly 2,000 aircraft fitted with Gogo hardware.
By lowering the altitude where passengers can be connected, we’re improving the service to our airline customers and their passengers. Passengers who fly shorter routes will now be able to be connected, allowing them to make the most of their time during those flights.– John Wade, president of Gogo Commercial Aviation
The increased coverage is realized through software tweaks to the tower hardware and the onboard equipment. The service will be available on business aviation aircraft equipped with AVANCE L5 or L3 systems, and on commercial aviation regional jets equipped with Gogo ATG-4 and ACPU2 technology. Gogo expects that ~1,300 AVANCE systems and ~650 regional jets will see the increased service window. Applying these updates requires no physical touch on the aircraft; the software changes are deployed over the air.
Delivering the additional connectivity also depends on specific airport or route profiles relative to tower locations. While the entire country is well covered with ATG service about 10,000 feet there are some gaps in the 3,000 feet footprint. But the company has conducted hundreds of test flights around the contiguous US on 50 aircraft, successfully delivering the service in most locations.
The company estimates the lower altitude activation will deliver an additional 15-20 minutes of connectivity for passengers on many flights. This benefits passengers on both business aviation and commercial flights. Gogo also notes that some 25% of regional flights operated with the ATG4 systems are less than an hour. With the 10,000 foot limit the service was barely active at all for these passengers.
“The additional connectivity time is a significant enhancement and will deliver even more value to customers,” said Sergio Aguirre, president of Gogo Business Aviation. “It makes connectivity available to those who believed inflight Wi-Fi wasn’t an option because they fly shorter routes.”
Making the service more available is one thing. Getting people to pay for it is another. Presumably the BizAv market is the prime target for these changes. Not only are there double the number of aircraft (and growing, unlike commercial) but these travelers generally use the service more readily in flight. For the commercial aviation passengers the idea of paying for a session on the shorter flights is unlikely to be as compelling. For certain pass holders or third-party funded (e.g. TMobile partner sessions) connections, however, the value may be greater.
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