In 2021, Gogo will roll out a nationwide 5G broadband network. As with any quantum leap in technology, the impact of Gogo 5G is far-reaching and members of the Aviation community are naturally curious about it might mean for them. For additional perspective, our senior leadership team gathered to explain what customers can expect in terms of performance, equipment, and installation.
Q. From a big-picture standpoint, what impact will Gogo’s 5G network have in business aviation?
A. Mike Syverson, Senior Vice President, Operations and Engineering: We believe it is the most impactful development we’ve announced in many years. Gogo 5G will be significantly better than any other inflight Wi-Fi experience in the market today. Not only will Gogo 5G be faster and provide greater bandwidth, it will be the most reliable network for aircraft, thanks to the redundancy we’ll offer with our existing 4G network. When we launch, we will provide nationwide coverage, and from a customer-service perspective, we’re making it easier than ever for our customers who have AVANCE L5 installed, to upgrade to Gogo 5G.
Q. Can you explain what the Power of 5 means?
A. Syverson: There are 5 key differentiators that we will deliver with Gogo 5G:
1) Performance, which is excellent already for those using our AVANCE L5, and will be even better with the speed Gogo 5G will deliver.
2) Reliability, which results from the redundancy of our networks. This is a critical differentiator that separates us from every other inflight connectivity provider and will enable a seamless experience nationwide.
3) Scalability, meaning Gogo 5G is more adaptable to new technology and the changing needs of users.
4) Software-centric design, which delivers the operational "brains on board" benefits of the AVANCE platform.
5) Superior customer service.
Q. What are Gogo’s plans for rolling out the 5G networks?
A. Syverson: We plan to launch our 5G network in 2021 on a nationwide (US and Canada) scale in North America, and then add additional capacity when and where we need to, like we did when we launched our original network. In essence, we will flip a switch to turn on the nationwide Gogo 5G network and make adjustments thereafter as needed.
Q. What does the use of unlicensed spectrum allow Gogo to do?
A. Syverson: Using unlicensed spectrum along with the spectrum we own is a big competitive advantage. Through channel bonding and carrier aggregation, we are able to use a much bigger frequency range as we design the network. Additionally, as spectrum opportunities become available and the ability for us to use either continuous spectrum or spectrum that is not in the same block, we will be able to add additional capacity and capabilities to our network without having to build a whole new network in the future. We’re designing the Gogo 5G network with all of that in mind.
Q. What is Gogo doing to make the transition to 5G as smooth as possible for customers?
A. Dave Glenn, Senior Vice President, Customer Operations: The biggest thing with ATG on an airplane is that the technology evolves so fast. It’s a much faster cycle for connectivity on an aircraft. Many operators are used to putting avionics on an aircraft and having it last 15 years. The point here is that things move much slower in the aviation industry than in telecom. Because the upgrades are done more frequently, customers have told us they want us to make the process simpler and easier - decrease the cost, decrease the complexity of the installation, and make it faster. We’ve listened carefully to that feedback and our development teams have responded.
5G is a good example. WIth Gogo 5G you’ll need to install new antennas, but we’re making the 5G antennas with the same hole patterns that the AVANCE L5 antennas have. And even though customers may need to install a new LRU, with Gogo 5G, the new hardware slides right in where previous equipment sat. Those are examples of the things we’re doing to make it easier for the customer.
Q. What will happen to the current Gogo Biz 4G network once Gogo 5G is available?
A. Syverson: Gogo is going to utilize our networks to ensure that customers will get the best experience they can when using our air-to-ground network. Our 4G network will remain operational, it’s not going anywhere. With 5G we’re adding capacity without sacrificing any of the current capabilities our customers have on today’s networks. People shouldn't worry that they’ll lose their existing coverage if they have an ATG system or an AVANCE L3 or L5 system onboard. Nothing with those systems changes. With 5G we have the ability to utilize our networks and always ensure our customers will have the best experience they can get.
Q. Why is network redundancy so important?
A. Syverson: Redundancy of networks is critical to ensuring a seamless connection, especially when flying for any notable length of time or in congested airspace. In the same way your cellphone goes from 4G LTE to 3G and then back to 4G LTE, with our 5G network you’ll see a 5G connection and then, if needed, the system will connect to the 4G signal and then jump back to 5G when it becomes available. Our service will work the same as the experience you have on your cellphone when it comes to network availability. So if 5G isn't there, 4G will be. Even better, the customer won’t know when they are going back and forth.
Q. How important is the AVANCE platform relative to 5G?
A. Andy Geist, Senior Vice President, Business Aviation Solutions: Gogo 5G is another area where we’ll be a market disruptor - and that’s something we’ve done from our founding. It’s in our roots. The AVANCE platform is a recent example of our innovative approach to enabling connectivity. AVANCE is software-centric and is really the brains on board that enables us to be more efficient with how we use our spectrum, and we are able to enhance the onboard experience through our software.
Additionally, we’re making sure that the investments people made when they installed an AVANCE L5 system will continue to pay off. You’ll need AVANCE L5 and it will be the most seamless upgrade we’ve ever designed.
Q. Will the capabilities with 5G be that much different than with 4G?
A. Syverson: With Gogo 5G our goal is to deliver bandwidth to the airplane that will provide an in-air experience that is similar to the experiences available on the ground. With 5G, additional streaming capabilities become available along with so many other enhanced capabilities - it will be a significant change.
Q. How is Gogo’s network unique from other networks serving aviation?
A. Glenn: Gogo is the only inflight connectivity provider that owns and optimizes its whole network infrastructure and is the only provider that manufactures the equipment for its onboard systems. Because we operate and manage our systems end to end, we can monitor and analyze the performance, and the security, of our network and onboard systems, and quickly deploy corrections when and where needed. No other provider can do that.
Q. What steps has Gogo taken to be able to launch 5G so quickly?
A. Geist: We’re launching Gogo 5G at roughly the same time the wireless carriers will be launching 5G on the ground. That is noteworthy because in the past aviation has typically lagged years behind, relative to the technology on the ground. But because of our innovative approach to software, hardware design, and our network technology which is already in place, we are able to operate at a different speed and pace than many others in aviation.
Q. What makes Gogo customer service different from everyone else?
A. Glenn: Our main focus the last several years has been on transparency and providing more information to our customers. By introducing new systems such as Gogo DASH, which as both an app and a ground portal, we can give the end-user on the aircraft insight into the onboard system at a device level. It makes it easier to get to the actual issue. The 5G experience will be added into the DASH application so they will have that information right off the bat as soon as they buy it.
Q. From a network perspective, what is Gogo doing to ensure a seamless transition for customers?
A. Glenn: The main thing relative to the network is we have a network today comprised of more than 250 towers. The tenure of our network team is such that many of the people who built our original network and put our equipment on those towers are still here. They know our systems, they know the geography, they've done similar planning - it’s not our first rodeo, so to speak. While others are trying to figure out how to do this on the fly, we’ve done it a couple times over, and Gogo 5G is the next natural progression.
Q. Can you explain the importance of scalability?
A. Syverson: The big thing with scalability is it gives us the ability to add additional frequencies to the network without forcing customers to swap out hardware on their aircraft. That means the upgrade is simpler and most cost-effective for the customer. Scalability also allows us to deliver higher performance to the network without the need to build a whole new network, which is simpler and most cost effective for us.