Gogo's jet-propelled test lab took flight yesterday with several reporters and one very important fin added to the underbelly of the plane.
On the quick flight across western Illinois, CTO Anand Chari showed off the significant speed increases and signal stability of their new ATG-4 (Air To Ground - 4) wireless system. Initially using the current ATG wireless, pages loaded slowly or timed out completely when a crowded plane was simulated. Switching to the new technology showed speeds reaching closer to the estimated max of 9.7 Mbps. When an additional 15 users were simulated on the plane, loading of pages slowed, but never stalled.
"This is a significant tech advancement," said CEO Michael Small. "We can serve considerable larger number of passengers - over half the plane [before degradation of the service]. The sky is going to keep growing. We're on a path to getting full service to a full plane of users."
Streaming services like Hulu and Netflix are still too big of a burden for in-flight connectivity, but the company's recent release of Gogo Vision offers a nice compromise - 100+ titles to watch streaming on your wireless device for $4.99 a movie or 99 cents a show.
Over 40 planes are already equipped with the ATG-4 technology, with Virgin, Delta and US Airways on board (launches for service on American Airlines and United are expected next year). The company plans to have over 500 planes equipped by the end of 2013.
How do you tell if your plane is equipped with the latest tech? If possible, look under the first third of the plane, near the door - if you can see two fins, the smaller will be the old ATG modem, and the larger will be the ATG-4. In addition, two directional antennae and a second modem will provide another clever bonus - by checking for signal in several directions, the plane will choose the strongest one to use, while the other keeps searching for the next best signal.
[Photo Credits: Dan Morgridge