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Gogo's stock crashes after AT&T unveils in-flight LTE network plans

Matt Hamblen | April 30, 2014
In-flight Wi-Fi provider Gogo's stock took a drubbing after AT&T yesterday announced plans for a new air-to-ground LTE service that will surely compete against Gogo, at least in the continental U.S.

Those speeds are 20 times faster than Gogo's original technology.

GTO is a hybrid satellite and cellular technology that is U.S. based, while 2Ku has global coverage. In an April 8 release, Gogo described 2Ku as offering two low-profile, high-efficiency Ku-band satellite antennas, which are only 4.5-inches tall to reduce drag on an aircraft.

Japan Airlines will trial the technology, which is expected to roll out in mid-2015. The Ku-band is a microwave frequency band used in satellite and broadcast communications, working at from 12 GHz to 14 GHz frequencies.

Questions persist about how well AT&T can build an in-flight LTE network to keep communications consistent to airborne cockpits as well as to onboard Wi-Fi routers, especially during storms. AT&T cited a survey from Honeywell which found that today's in-flight Wi-Fi frustrates nine of 10 users worldwide, with most citing inconsistent or slow connections.

AT&T will work with Honeywell in the in-flight network deployment.

"Wi-Fi services on planes to-day have been very poor quality, unreliable and very frustrating," said Jeff Kagan, an independent wireless analyst. "If AT&T's service works better than what we have now, this would be a very big deal for countless fliers."

The expense of in-flight Wi-Fi and "sketchy connectivity have kept it in the niche category for most flights, so no doubt AT&T thinks it's time to bring in-flight Wi-Fi to the masses," Gold said.

Whether AT&T can offer a superior service at an affordable price is the ultimate question, Gold said.

Perhaps airlines could see an incentive to working with AT&T, through the use of the air-to-ground LTE for monitoring the plane's operations and communicating with the cockpit, other analysts said. AT&T might be able to reduce its costs for Wi-Fi to passengers if it can charge the airlines enough for the cockpit communications and operations updates provided in real-time over the LTE network.


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