Gogo, the aviation connectivity company, has announced plans to build a 5G network for aviation. The new air-to-ground (ATG) network will be designed for use on business aviation aircraft, commercial regional jets and smaller mainline jets operating within United States and Canada. Gogo said the network will be available for business and commercial aviation in 2021.
The company will build the 5G network on its existing infrastructure of more than 250 towers and will use unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4GHz range, along with a proprietary modem and advanced beamforming technology.
“We expect to launch Gogo 5G at the same time as the terrestrial telecommunications companies are deploying the same generation of technology on the ground – a first in the inflight connectivity industry,” said Oakleigh Thorne, Gogo’s CEO.
The company does not disclose its operational or maintenance costs, however, Lisa Peterson, SVP, global marketing, said: “Each satellite costs about $1 billion to build and launch.”
Gogo’s 5G infrastructure will support all spectrum types (licensed, shared, unlicensed) and bands (mid, high, low), and will allow Gogo to take advantage of new advances in technology as they are developed. Similar to how wireless carriers provide redundancy across their networks, Gogo will continue to employ its 3G and 4G networks throughout the continental U.S. and in Canada so as to provide backup to the 5G network when needed.
When compared to satellite technologies, ground-based network technologies in general deliver certain operational advantages – specifically lower cost of operation and lower latency.
At present, Gogo offers two different internet solutions: Air-to-ground and satellite. Its air-to-ground system was one of the first and adopted by airlines quickly.
Business aircraft in the USA and Canada can be connected on the Gogo ATG network. While, its rest-of-the-world reach is covered by satellites.
Gogo does not have any towers installed in Europe. When asked about expansion in the region, Peterson said the company’s strategy is to evaluate the best possible investments. She also said that Gogo is not looking into the drone space at present, but helicopters might be a potential next step.