I will be the first to admit that I don’t always own the latest and greatest technology. I was one of the last people on earth to get rid of my old tube TV, I am still living without surround sound (*gasp!), and my car is over 10 years old, has nearly 200,000 miles and is somewhat embarrassing to drive. Years of lean living has led me to a place where I have learned to find the ‘sweet spot’ when making an investment of money. You know, the place where economy meets practicality–where you can feel good about saving money and still have all the benefits of living in the 21st century.
Now I feel like I’ve really splurged, and I am having a tinge of guilt because of I took the bait and connected my tablet to WiFi on a recent two hour Delta flight. I realize now that this technology has been around a while, but as usual, I was probably one of the last to experience in-flight WiFi.
I have to admit that the WiFi worked better than I thought it would, there were no noticeable drops or slowdowns even though my flight flew over some of the most desolate country in the U.S. (sorry if you are from Wyoming. I mean no offense; besides, I think you know exactly what I mean).
When I got back home I decided to do a little research to see how they do that, ’cause that’s what I do. What I found was very interesting:
The service that Delta uses in flight is provided by a company called Gogo. Gogo is a company based in Itasca, Ill that has equipped over 6000 business aircraft, and over 2000 commercial with their in-air service at the time of this writing. Gogo uses several different technologies to connect passengers connected while in air.
Air-To-Ground (ATG) Gogo’s ATG network is a cellular based network that has more than 160 towers in the continental U.S., Alaska and soon, Canada. The towers are cellphone towers that have been outfitted to point their signals at the sky rather than along the ground. The aircraft picks up the signal through a receiver installed on its underside. When it reaches the aircraft, the data signal is distributed throughout the cabin via a Wi-Fi system.
ATG-4 Gogo’s ATG-4 service has enhanced the existing network (ATG) and improves per aircraft capacity through the addition of Directional Antenna, Dual Modem and EV-DO Rev. B technologies. This new platform is backwards-compatible and allows for upgrades to existing ATG systems through low-cost retrofits. ATG-4 is expected to enhance Gogo’s existing ATG network and deliver peak speeds from current performances of up to 3.1 Mbit/s to up to 9.8 Mbit/s per aircraft.
Ka-band satellite Gogo was named a service provider for Inmarsat‘s Global Xpress satellite service in November, 2011. Inmarsat also selected Gogo’s business aviation subsidiary, Aircell as a distribution partner for the business and government aviation markets.
Ku-band satellite Gogo has satellite agreements in place with SES (for coverage over the U.S., Atlantic Ocean and Europe) and Intelsat (for coverage over portions of the Atlantic and northern Pacific oceans, as well as routes over South America, Asia, Africa and Australia). Gogo has also signed an agreement with Intelsat for Ku band satellite capacity specifically for coverage in the Atlantic and northern Pacific oceans, as well as routes over Central and South America, Asia, Australia and parts of Africa. Gogo announced in May 2012, that it will partner with satellite equipment provider, AeroSat, to bring a Ku-satellite solution to commercial airlines. A Ku-satellite solution will allow Gogo to offer airlines connectivity services that extend beyond the United States, including transoceanic routes, and will serve the needs of some of their airline partners in the near-term until Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka band-satellite becomes available.
Gogo Ground to Orbit Gogo’s newest service is a proprietary hybrid technology that combines the best aspects of existing satellite technologies with Gogo’s Air to Ground network. This technology uses satellite for receive only and Gogo’s Air to Ground network for the return link to the ground. Gogo GTO offers peak speeds of 60 Mbit/s or more to aircraft flying throughout North America and will be available in 2014. This new service is expected to increase speeds by more than six times the current performance.Virgin America will be the launch partner of the new service.
Technology for business aviation For the Business/corporate aviation market, Aircell, a Gogo company, offers three different inflight technologies: Iridium Satellite, Inmarsat SwiftBroadband (satellite) and Gogo Biz (ATG and ATG-4).
Pasted from <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gogo_Inflight_Internet>
For those of you who just skimmed over that little blurb that I stole from Wikipedia, let me summarize:
This is how it’s done: Using cell towers that are outfitted with antennas that point toward the sky, and satellites.
Think of it as a simple mobile hotspot running traveling at 600mph at 30,000 feet. All this, and just so you can browse to google or enjoy the latest cat memes. I guess you could do real work too (if you really wanted to.) Oh, and one last note, you can download coupons for Gogo from retailmenot or other coupon sites. Have a few of them ready if you decide to rent some bandwidth while flying, it can save you some money (that’s for those of you who can relate to hitting that ‘sweet spot’ I mentioned earlier). Just remember next time you fly, “Yes, you can haz wifi”.