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Gogo is developing 5G network for planes.

Gogo, an in-flight internet provider, recently publicised plans to develop a new 5G service designed to provide faster in-flight Wi-Fi on smaller-scale commercial airlines in the continental United States and Canada, those companies' even smaller regional jets, and on business jets as well.

Gogo confirmed it will essentially graft the 5G network onto the 250 towers the company currently leases which allow them to power air-to-ground (ATG) services. Majority of commercial aircrafts enlisting Gogo (like Delta airlines) continue to mainly obtain internet connections from ground stations like these, about 1,881 out of 2,551 existing in North America as of 2018, according to the company's newest financial report.

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The 5G connection is to be conveyed to the aircraft via a combination of the unlicensed 2.4GHz spectrum, a 'proprietary modem' developed by Gogo and advanced beamforming technology. The company stated it will support 'all spectrum types (licensed, shared, unlicensed) and bands (mid, high, low)' to ensure that Gogo will retain the ability to increase speeds and bandwidth capabilities in the future as 5G technology further develops.

Planes with 5G capability will maintain the ability to use Gogo's 3G and 4G connections as a backup. Gogo's director of communications Dave Mellin confirmed the company will first deploy the 5G technology on 'a few towers' for testing, but did not state when that would occur.

Gogo reportedly spent the last few years designing an aircraft that could connect to the internet via satellites at quite a rapid clip. The seemingly meagre number of 59 Gogo-equipped commercial aircraft using satellite-based internet in 2016 rapidly expanded to about 670 by the end of 2018 with connections provided by a variety of satellites from SES, Intelsat, and others. In the sector of business aviation, Gogo uses satellite-based internet (provided by Iridium) on about half of the 10,000-plus aircraft that the company provides connections for.

A primary reason for Gogo's shift towards satellite internet is that it's much more efficient and convenient than ground-based connections. Majority of complaints about Gogo are based on slow speeds and frequent connection interruptions. The ATG system is known to be susceptible to these issues, especially when an aircraft switches from one tower to the other or when multiple aircraft connect to the same tower.

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Gogo, having not been profitable since 2013, stated in its 2018 financial report that evolving the ATG network is of the utmost importance to ensure success, especially as the company is currently capacity constrained. 'If our next generation ATG solution fails to perform as expected or its commercial availability is significantly delayed as compared to the timelines we establish, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially adversely affected,' the company wrote.

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Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:May 31, 2019
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