In-flight Wi-Fi giant Gogo is getting closer to releasing its 2Ku tech that it says will dramatically increase connection speeds. TechRepublic tested it out in the air.
Business travelers—your future flights could soon become better connected. One of the biggest in-flight Wi-Fi providers is planning an upgrade.
Gogo, provider of the Gogo Inflight Internet service on many major airlines, initially announced its 2Ku service in 2014. By switching from its traditional Air-to-Ground network of cell towers to the satellite-powered 2Ku, the company said speeds would increase from 3Mbps to 70Mbps.
The 2Ku service uses dual antennas, one as an upward (receive-only), and the other as a downward (return) link. It also has twice the spectral efficiency, and will work with next-generation Ku satellites as they are deployed. Gogo's website calls it the most "TV-friendly solution in the market," which means if you want to ditch work and watch Netflix, it might be your best bet.
On Thursday, Gogo hosted journalists at their newly renovated Chicago headquarters on Canal Street. Gogo CEO Michael Small said that 2Ku will help the company provide better service on a global scale and create more bandwidth. The antenna's round shape will help with global coverage as it better avoids interference from other satellites. Small said they went with Ku satellites over the newer Ka satellites because there are more currently in the sky. According to his presentation there are roughly 180 Ku satellites compared to the 5 Ka satellites in the sky.
After Small's presentation, Gogo invited guests aboard their 737 aircraft, named "Jimmy Ray" (after the founder of the company), to test out the new technology.
Aboard the plane, I first performed a speed test at Speedtest.net, which returned a download speed of 16.77 Mbps and an upload speed of 0.24 Mbps. This initial test was performed on the ground, before the plane had taken off.
I ran a second speed test while we were airborne and experienced a 9.27 Mbps download speed and a 0.24 Mbps upload speed.
As far as video is concerned, two 1.5 hr YouTube video loaded in three seconds and experienced no buffering issues through 10 minutes of play. This TechRepublic video took about five seconds to load and did not experience buffering.
Gogo's live TV service came on instantly and operated well with crisp, clear picture of my favorite subject: Hockey.
Streaming music through Pandora took roughly seven seconds to load, but seemed to operate fine after it got going. Although, I did type in "Mobb Deep" and it gave me a "Motown" station.
Download and upload times varied. A 515 KB file took 16 seconds on average to download and I couldn't upload a file, although I tried with the same 515 KB file and a smaller, 275 KB file. I was, after some time, able upload a 300 KB photo to Facebook.
Two Gmail accounts loaded seamlessly, but chatting through Google and Slack experienced a slight lag. Another passenger expressed some issues with his email account not loading while we were airborne.
It should be noted I was unable to access our corporate VPN after multiple attempts at different points during the flight, so if you regularly use a VPN that could be an issue.
I was able to successfully connect on a Google Hangout with TechRepublic's Jason Hiner. However, while I had full access and no problems on my end, on Jason's end at the office, he experienced regular freezing and heavy lag, no doubt due to the poor upload speeds.
And, what some may view as the most important test, I was able to quickly post a selfie to Instagram.
As it stands now, in-flight Wi-Fi, regardless of provider, is painfully slow, and the price of Gogo has gone up in the past. On an earnings call earlier this year, Small noted that it was a capacity issue, and said the company was "heavily using price to manage the capacity issue right now and will continue to do that."
Hopefully, with the roll-out of its new 2Ku technology, the in-flight experience will get better for travelers and help alleviate some of the pain points that plague the market. And, if 2Ku can better handle the capacity issues, maybe it will get a little cheaper too.
Moving forward, Small said the future goals of Gogo are to connect the entire aircraft, from in-flight services to flight operations.
At the initial presentation, Small said 2Ku has been adopted by eight airlines and over 550 aircrafts, and they expect a fuller installation ramp up in 2016.
What do you think?
We want to know. Do you think these updates will be enough to earn your business with Gogo? Tell us in the comments.