We spoke with Mark Sander, Gogo’s vice president of OEM account management, about the company’s AVANCE inflight connectivity and entertainment platform. A member of Gogo’s sales team for more than 15 years, Sander has seen ATG technology evolve from the beginning when Gogo launched service. Customer feedback and input has been an integral part of the design for Gogo AVANCE.
Let’s start by discussing what AVANCE is and how it differs from other inflight connectivity and entertainment systems.
Gogo AVANCE isn’t a specific product—it’s a platform consisting of hardware and software solutions addressing five fundamental areas of aircraft connectivity: productivity, efficiency, confidence, control, and performance. Within those five areas, you’ll find Gogo’s hardware platforms, like the AVANCE L3 and L5, plus our emerging 5G system, along with software solutions such as Gogo Vision, Gogo Text & Talk, Smart Cabin Systems, and more. AVANCE is inflight connectivity’s smartest platform and is the most personal way to enable passengers, crew, and operators to stay connected during a flight. It also delivers additional features for pre- and post-flight monitoring and analysis. Bottom line: AVANCE is the engine on which your entire Gogo experience runs.
You mentioned AVANCE L3 and L5. What’s the difference?
This addresses the performance aspect of AVANCE. The AVANCE platform connects to a variety of current and future networks. Since 2009, Gogo has operated our air-to-ground (ATG) 3G network, which was enabled initially using the ATG 4000 or 5000 systems. AVANCE L3 is the next migration of products within the 3G network environment and it works really well for medium-sized jets and down. AVANCE L3 also contains all of the built-in features of Gogo Vision along with our productivity tools, namely Gogo DASH.
AVANCE L5 delivers superior performance and operates on our 4G network, which uses a lot of the same back-office infrastructure but with some innovative hardware, antenna, and network technology that combines to provide an increase in speed and performance. Gogo’s 4G network delivers speeds that are about three times faster than our 3G network delivers. For aircraft with higher passenger loads or longer missions, AVANCE L5 provides a lot more capacity, including the ability to stream internet content. AVANCE L5 customers want the best in performance from an ATG system and L5 has been received very well in the market with nearly 900 systems installed.
You’ve talked about the 3G and 4G capability, but we know that Gogo is working on 5G. How is 5G going to affect the AVANCE system?
I mentioned how we’re designing these products with common software and hardware characteristics to minimize disruption in the aircraft. Gogo 5G will be an add-on to the AVANCE L5 platform. All of our AVANCE L5 customers are already partly provisioned to accept 5G when it comes into the market in 2021.
One of the distinct advantages of Gogo 5G is that—for the first time ever—we'll be incorporating both licensed and unlicensed frequencies simultaneously on the aircraft. That’s critical because when we combine the two frequencies they will work together simultaneously, and the result will be a significant increase in performance and unmatched redundancy. Only Gogo can deliver that benefit to an aircraft. With Gogo 5G, we're talking about performing 10 times or more faster than traditional 3G networks while adding a lot more capacity to the aircraft in terms of data throughput, providing blazing fast speeds to more passengers using more devices on board.
It’s easy to see how the AVANCE platform and connectivity to Gogo’s 3G, 4G, and soon-to-be-unveiled 5G inflight internet networks can boost productivity, but what about the other aspects of the AVANCE platform, such as confidence and control?
Just as inflight connectivity is so important for the VIPs in the cabin, connecting the aircraft LRU (line replaceable unit) with our support network is important to the operator and its director of maintenance (DOM). The AVANCE platform allows us to perform predictive maintenance on the equipment onboard the aircraft so we can diagnose and troubleshoot problems before they become bigger problems. This again, gives operators greater confidence. Often, we can see and fix problems before the customer sees them.
And then there's the element of control, which is really about putting these tools in the hands of the operator to ensure that the system is working properly. Operators and DOMs can review data from each flight via the DASH tool set and determine the overall system health on an ongoing basis. Current applications within DASH provide the ability for DOMs to know that the system is functioning as expected, while future applications will provide the ability to manage the inflight experience, including prioritizing certain user groups on the aircraft to optimize data usage and performance. Connectivity has become so vital that some customers simply won’t fly if their Wi-Fi isn’t working and customized to their needs.
How does efficiency factor into the AVANCE platform?
AVANCE brings efficiency in several ways. One of the most obvious we have seen through our analysis is unlocking the potential of applications used by pilots and crew. Over time, we have learned what the crew is using our services for and that allows us to innovate further and enhance their experiences. Understanding what the crew is doing has made it possible for us to partner with third-party companies that specialize in pilot applications and services. As we see trends in pilot applications evolve, AVANCE can evolve with them, enhancing the efficiency of the tools carried onboard and enrichening the interaction with those tools.
The AVANCE platform elements are all designed around commonality of hardware and software, so our customers can progress from 3G to 4G and eventually to 5G functionality with as little disruption to the aircraft as possible. In the past, changing technology meant ripping equipment out of the airplane and then installing something brand new, which is Zdisruptive for the operator. Today, our hardware and software platforms have elements that allow us to keep some of that infrastructure intact but still efficiently deliver the benefits of new technology to our customers.
What’s Gogo Vision and how does it impact the customer?
Gogo Vision fits within our productivity focus, providing entertainment and information ranging from inflight movies and e-magazines to a moving map, weather data, and up-to-the-minute news clips. We know that when people have completed their work, they may want to take care of some personal business, connect with family, or enjoy some downtime watching a movie or reading an e-magazine. As a result, our goal has always been to do more than just connect people with their email and the internet. We wanted to bring a set of feature-rich information and entertainment options to the aircraft because people want to stay connected, informed, and entertained.
Many people don’t know this, but Gogo Vision is the only fully integrated streaming inflight entertainment service in business aviation, and we offer exclusive licensed content including the latest Hollywood releases and TV programming. With Gogo Vision, operators and customers enjoy inflight entertainment without consuming massive amounts of data over the live link, which can be cost prohibitive on certain satellite links. We automatically upload content on the AVANCE platform to the aircraft, and we keep that content fresh with updates to movies, episodic television, and live newsfeeds. When customers watch Gogo Vision from their personal devices, they're seeing the latest content.
Another example of how we have seen trends change is the adoption of Gogo Vision’s e-magazine service. By unlocking the benefits of e-magazines, passengers no longer have to “share the paper,” and the aircraft no longer has to carry the weight. Even though we have had e-magazines available for more than a year, we are just now seeing the popularity of the service take off.
How does that make Gogo Vision different from other IFEs?
If a customer is paying for a subscription-based service, we don’t want to make them have to update their onboard content. That’s a burden we want to take from them. We manage the licensed content and the ongoing updates on behalf of our customers. As a result, individual operators don’t have to worry about keeping the content fresh. If they had to do that, they might have to download the content onto a drive, walk out to the airplane, then upload it to the server or a hard drive on the aircraft.
Through Gogo Vision, all of that is handled wirelessly via our Gogo Cloud network. Whenever that aircraft lands and is within range of a Gogo Cloud Wi-Fi transmitter, either in its own hanger or at one of our FBO partners, content onboard is updated automatically. That’s an important distinction that only Gogo can offer today, and it matters to our customers because we know it’s frustrating when you’re paying for a service and every time you log in the content never changes.
With all of those people and devices on board, how does AVANCE address security issues between users, the passenger-enabled products, and the aircraft-enabled products like predictive-maintenance applications?
As both a network operator and an equipment designer, we have the ability to be thinking about security from start to finish, not trying to bolt security on after the fact. Gogo is the manufacturer of the hardware; we are the provider of the service; and we own and operate the ATG network. This gives us a tremendous advantage in terms of building security throughout the entire chain of our networks and onboard systems. We build security into our products that works in conjunction with the security that's built into our network.
We're securing the aircraft side. We’re securing the RF link from the aircraft to the towers. We’re securing the link from the towers to the Gogo data center. And we’re securing via firewalls from our data center to the internet. So that link is secure throughout our ecosystem. Because we control and operate the entire ecosystem—including the onboard hardware and software as well as the network—we have a unique ability to secure the entire connection end-to-end. No other inflight connectivity provider can say that.