Gogo announced today significant new technology upgrades that will boost the speed and enhance the reliability of their in-flight wifi service. These upgrades will be rolled out first with Virgin America (VX) in 2014, who also happened to be the first customer to introduce Gogo service fleet-wide, and the first to implement the enhanced ATG-4 high-speed service.
The essence of the new technology is a refined antenna that utilizes a “GTO” protocol (or “Ground-to-Orbit”). This system will build upon Gogo’s existing ground-based antennas to utilize multiple satellites for enhanced speed and reliability. Gogo claims upwards of 60 Mbps speeds to planes running their service. That’s up to 20x faster than what you can expect on most planes equipped with Gogo right now.
Another benefit of the new antenna is that it can communicate with multiple satellites at once, which increases stability. If one connection fails, another can pick up the slack. This will hopefully prevent what happened on my last Gogo-equipped flight; a 20-minute loss of coverage in the middle of writing an AirlineReporter.com story.
Most times I can’t stand commercials. Of course this doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good commercial when I see one. GoGo, which provides WiFi service on airlines, has started an advertising campaign starring Trav Lehrman (say it out loud and you should get it). GoGo describes Trav as “an eccentric new spokesperson,” but I would probably say he is a bit uncouth, but still likeable.
Trav is going to be a part of a bigger advertising campaign by GoGo that will use radio, airport based advertising, online display and video ads, and social media. GoGo is also holding a contest where you can win thier internet for life and $10,000.00 — that will buy a lot of stuff you don’t need from the SkyMall catalog.
GoGo is going all out with Trav. Not only is he in video, but he also has his own website and Twitter feed. If you want more of Trav, no worries. He has starred in more than one video.
Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 taking off from Anchorage, AK.
Airlines adding wi-fi to their fleet is nothing new. But Alaska Airlines announcing they will be adding GoGo Inflight for their Wi-Fi service is exciting since: #1 They were testing Row44 and decided to go with GoGo instead and #2 Alaska is my hometown airline (based in Seattle), I fly them often, and I love having the internet at 30,000 feet.
Alaska has been testing Row44′s satellite-based internet service for quite sometime now. Row44′s main customer is Southwest Airlines. Many thought Alaska would go with Row44 since they have flights to Hawaii and remote areas of Alaska where cell towers, needed by GoGo, do not exist.
Why is Alaska willing to forgo service on all their routes to go with GoGo? A few reasons. First GoGo equipment costs less and takes less time to install on aircraft. This would mean a lower investment at the beginning and not as much lost revenue due to aircraft not being able to fly during installation. Also GoGo is installed on many different airlines all over the US already and has proven itself as a viable service.
GoGo, attempting to get Alaska’s business, has agreed to expand its network into Alaska, however flights to Hawaii will still have no internet (but heck those passengers are going to Hawaii…nice tropical, warm Hawaii. They can deal with no internet).
To get FAA certification, one Boeing 737-800 will get GoGo installed, then the service will be installed fleet-wide.
Mary Kirby, with Flight Global’s Runway Girl, also has another opinion on this choice. She asks if Southwest and Row44 might have some arrangement in the works, which would have either delayed installation of Row44 into Alaska’s aircraft or Southwest might invest in Row44 and partly own the company. Only time will tell!
I have to say that I am very honored by the fact that I get flown around the world to do some pretty amazing aviation-related things, but Aviation Geek Fest has become one of my favorites to look forward to each year. I am just so happy I got to share the experience with 300 AvGeeks!
Boeing SST mockup in the Museum of Flight Restoration Center
SATURDAY: PAINE FIELD DAY
For me, the first day (Saturday the 15th) started with a trip to the Museum of Flight Restoration Center where I was able to check out the Boeing SST mockup, a Comet, the first-ever Boeing 727, and a Boeing 247.
I just love the feel of this facility; it is raw. Although there were many cool ongoing projects, the best part was talking to the folks doing the restoration. They love what they do, they have a sense of humor, and they have so much amazing background on the planes.
Southwest 737-700 (N711HK) seen at Dallas Love Field with Row 44 raydome between the strobe and vertical stabilizer. It also sports a retro-livery design.
On November 20, 2013 Southwest Airlines announced that, effective immediately, customers could use their portable electronic devices (PEDs) gate-to-gate. This was expected as other airlines had been making similar announcements earlier in the month after the FAA relaxed their rules. What wasn’t expected was that in-flight entertainment (IFE), through their Row 44 WiFi, would also be available gate-to-gate, making them the first U.S. airline to offer a seamless integrated experience, regardless of altitude.
Southwest Airlines has long been a renegade, going against the grain, often being successful with that strategy. When the industry zigs, they zag and usually find themselves with a competitive advantage. And that’s exactly what they did when they bucked the trend of U.S. airlines signing on with traditional passenger-level-hardware IFE. Instead, Southwest chose Row 44, an industry underdog to provide their connectivity. Row 44′s network is powered solely by satellite, whereas (at the time) the other big domestic players (i.e. GoGo) focused on terrestrial (land-based cell tower) service.
I’m a known critic of IFE at the airline-provided-hardware level. I am of the school of thought that if you can give me WiFi, I’ll find a way to entertain myself, with my own device(s). BYOD (that is, “bring your own device”) is gaining in popularity across many industries and applications, so why not with airlines? Traditional IFE is expensive to implement, heavy to fly around, and requires added maintenance. With passengers likely to bring the added weight of their own devices anyway, why not simply eliminate the cost and complexity?
Southwest’s in-flight connectivity is nothing new, but has matured well beyond basic WiFi. I recently had the opportunity to try out the new gate-to-gate, or in my case, gate-to-gate-to-gate Row 44 on a business trip from Kansas City with a stopover at Dallas Love Field on my way to San Antonio. Let me say, I was impressed.