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Faster Gogo In-Flight Wi-Fi Coming, but Not Soon Enough for Frequent Fliers

Gogo has regulatory approval for the new technology, but it will take time to outfit the 500 planes that are in line to get the faster Wi-Fi gear.


Inflight Wi-Fi provider Gogo said Monday it has received regulatory approval for a new technology that promises 20 times the bandwidth of its current service.

Anyone who has used Gogo’s often poky in-the-air Wi-Fi service knows that any increase in speed can’t come soon enough. However, the newly approved technology can’t simply be accomplished with the flip of a switch. It requires that an entirely new type of hardware be added to planes.

Gogo is putting the so-called 2Ku equipment on its own test plane this week and plans to make the first commercial launch later this year, though most of the pending upgrades won’t start until 2016.

About 500 aircraft from seven airlines are in line to get the new technology, but it will take some time to get to each of them and Gogo says the exact schedule will be up to the airlines. Delta is the main U.S. airline pledging to adopt the new technology, though United is also adding it to five planes.

“We believe this will be the best performing technology for the global commercial aviation market, bar none,” Gogo Chief Technology Officer Anand Chari said in a statement. “Clearing this regulatory hurdle brings us one step closer to enabling our airline partners and their passengers to enjoy the future of in-flight Internet.”

For now, Gogo has been managing the excess of demand for its limited bandwidth by raising prices. It is now common to see prices topping $30 for a cross-country flight if you sign up on the plane. (Pro tip: It’s half that price if you buy a day pass before you take off.) The company also prohibits the use of streaming video services, such as Netflix and Hulu, though frequent users say the service can be slow for even basic Web browsing when many people are using it.

AT&T had briefly expressed interest last year in entering the market, but abandoned those plans before launching.

Gogo Puts the Two in 2Ku from gogo on Vimeo.

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