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In June 2006, Aircell won an FCC auction for exclusive access to two 1.5-MHz chunks of bandwidth at 849.0 to 850.5 MHz and 894.0 to 895.5 MHz in the cell phone frequency spectrum. With 3 MHz of total bandwidth and using Qualcomm's 3G CDMA Evolution-Data Only (EV-DO) technology, Aircell then had the ability to offer high-speed digital communications between aircraft and ground stations. Data transfer rates of up to 1.8 Mbps from airplanes to ground stations and 3.1 Mbps from ground stations to airplanes then became possible.
With FCC license in hand, Aircell began fast-paced installation of ground stations in the continental U.S. to support users, completing the network less than two years later. By April 2008, the firm began taking orders from business aircraft operators for its ATG-series (air-to-ground) avionics and high-speed Internet services. Now, the network has been expanded to include populated sections of Alaska.
In August 2010, the firm rebranded the service as Gogo Biz to dovetail with the marketing of its Gogo brand high-speed Internet service for commercial airlines. Combined, the services became so well known so quickly that this past July, the company, which is based in Broomfield, Colo., and Itasca, Ill., renamed itself as Gogo. The company's first offering for business aircraft installations was the $56,000 ATG-4000 high-speed Internet system, an add-on air-to-ground transceiver that's linked to an Aircell ST 4200 Axxess Iridium satcom phone communications system and Wi-Fi router. The system provides Internet access to aircraft flying at 10,000 ft. MSL or higher. Total installed cost is about $150,000 to $175,000.
The firm now offers the ATG-5000 high-speed Internet system that uses virtually all the same ATG-4000 components except for the Iridium phone. It is composed of an air-to-ground transceiver and Wi-Fi router. Installed cost is about $100,000 to $125,000. The company plans to upgrade the ATG-5000 with a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) capability in late 2011, providing voice quality equivalent to landline phones, according to the company. Gogo Biz will support simultaneous voice and data communications, but voice will be given priority and thus data uploads and downloads require slightly more time.
Business aircraft operators and avionics shops have found that it's quite challenging to get theto sign off on permanently installed, aftermarket Wi-Fi routers, including Gogo's fully PMAed cabin telecommunications router. However, Gogo routers now are approved for installation on many popular business aircraft manufactured by , and , plus , and Gulfstream, along with , Piaggio and .
Three monthly service plans are available. Gogo Biz Unlimited offers connection speeds up to 3.1 Mbps and is priced at $1,995 per month. Gogo Biz 100, priced at $895 per month, provides 100 MB of data. Gogo Biz 40, priced at $395 per month, provides 40 MB of data. Additional megabytes are priced respectively at $7.95 and $8.95 for Gogo Biz 100 and Gogo Biz 40 service plans.
Some operators have expressed concern that Gogo may be a victim of its own success. Its network of ground stations could be overwhelmed with traffic as its popularity grows among airlines and business aircraft operators. To meet customer expectations, Gogo is adding capacity with a "sectorization" plan that will split the three sectors of heavily used ground stations into six smaller sectors, resulting in doubling the capacity of each station. The firm also plans to add new ground stations to accommodate the data communications load in high activity areas.
Longer term, Gogo plans to quadruple its air-to-ground connectivity system with directional antennae, dual band modems and Qualcomm's EV-DO Rev. B technology upgrade that triples data rates, reduces latency and doubles data capacity for “bursty” Web browsing applications. These technologies eventually will enable Aircell to increase bandwidth and capacity by a factor of 60. That will allow the company to accommodate a large increase in data communications traffic with no discernible decrease in system performance.
As described further on, Gogo also plans to offer Ka-band satcom connectivity in 2013.