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Frequent flyers, rejoice! Gogo’s in-flight Internet service will receive a major upgrade in 2014 to support streaming video and generally offer a better web browsing experience, the company announced today.
Gogo says download speeds will reach 60 megabits per second, 20 times faster than Gogo’s 3 Mbps bandwidth when it launched in 2008. The new GTO (ground to orbit) technology combines Gogo’s existing ground-based receivers for uploads with satellites for faster download speeds.
Virgin America will kick off the new GTO service in the second half of 2014.
In 2008, it seemed like a miracle just to get Internet access midair — but the limits of Gogo’s early technology quickly became apparent. That tiny 3 Mbps pipeline — less then half the speed of a typical home broadband connection — gets shared between everyone on the flight, which leads to a pretty crummy experience. Last year, Gogo upgraded its service on some Virgin America planes to 10 Mbps, but that technology isn’t widespread (and it’s still a small pool of bandwidth to share).
Because of its limited in-flight bandwidth, Gogo recently raised its prices. The higher prices meant fewer flyers would sign up for the service, but it led to a better experience for those that did (typically, business people who wanted to work done and would expense Gogo’s fees). The company tells Engadget that the higher bandwidth could eventually lead to cheaper fees.
“The advantages of using satellite for reception only and Gogo’s ATG Network for the return link are unprecedented,” the company said in a press release today. “Existing two-way satellite antennas in the commercial aviation market have limited power for transmissions so they don’t interfere with other satellites. This dynamic makes the connection from the aircraft to the ground using two-way satellite an inefficient and expensive return link compared to Gogo’s ATG Network.”
Gogo says it will use a “Ku” antenna for satellite reception, which is smaller than antennas from competing services. Since it will only use the satellite antenna to receive data, Gogo doesn’t think it will need to pursue new FCC licensing.