Gogo with U.S. In-flight Broadband by spring

The president and COE of Itasca, ILL-based Aircell, Jack Blumenstein says its in-flight broadband service gogo will be available by spring. AirCell’s first two customers, American Airlines and Bay Area based Virgin American are rushing to ready their planes as Blumenstein said: “For the first six months, there will be more broadband-enabled flights out of San Francisco.”

At first 15 American Airline 747’s will be broadband enabled and plans to increase to 500 planes while Virgin is looking at wiring all its plains as it wants to provide broadband access to every seat via its back seat system. Aircell is in talks with other airlines however Blumenstein remained tight lipped as to whom, although he did state just how much the service will cost: $12.95 for cross-country flights such as San Francisco to New York, and $9.95 for flights with durations of three hours or less.

Aircell is also considering gaining corporate user agreements with firms such as iPass and also plans to work with aggregators such as Boingo and T-Mobile, also there are developing low-tier plans for handsets such as the iPhone , as well as flat-rate plans for frequent fliers.

Gogo uses the ground-to-air system which small antennas on planes pick up the signals. Aircell has 92 giant antennas across the US, and mostly sit in the same antenna farms as mobile carriers allowing data to be transmitted and picked up as 45,000 sq ft on planes at 500mph in a 350mile radius, and although not commercially available it is currently operational.

Aircell owns approx 3MHz’s of same spectrum which was occupied by Airfone service which means they can transmit signals at about 3 megabits per second. Using on-board caching and compression, Gogo customers can experience broadband speeds of 2 megabits per second, however having not yet tested the system that number may not be realistic.

A customised version of Qualcomm’s EV-DO Rev A is the technology used for radio transmission, and Blumenstein said they can migrate to Rev B or LTE if and when those higher speed technologies become available. The base stations for the system are supplied by Chinese telecom hardware supplier ZTE Corp, who is desperately trying to make a name for themselves in the U.S. market.

Aircell hopes to have roughly 500 antennas, enough to cover the country and support as many as ¼ million broadband users. Blumenstein says: “We think we have a cost advantage over satellite-based systems as we are using proven technologies that are already in deployment.”

Source — gigaom

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