Gogo Business Aviation, the dominant provider of inflight connectivity to business aircraft in North America, is gearing up to go global with a new broadband IFC solution for BizAv that will leverage Hughes Network Systems’ electronically steered antenna (ESA) technology and OneWeb’s Low Earth Orbit satellite constellation.
By partnering with Hughes and OneWeb, Gogo is making good on its stated commitment to offer an integrated air-to-ground/LEO satellite-supported inflight connectivity product to the North American business aviation market, and a LEO-focused solution globally.
“Gogo’s exclusive antenna assembly, designed in conjunction with Hughes Network Systems, LLC will be small enough for installation on the fuselage of business aircraft from super light jets and large turboprops to ultralong-range jets, and will operate on OneWeb’s high-speed, low-latency broadband global network,” declared Gogo in a statement.
“To access the network, the new service will require just one Gogo AVANCE LRU [line replaceable unit] inside the aircraft, which means existing AVANCE customers will only have to install the ESA antenna, with a single cable for power in, and a single cable for data out.”
But global operators that do not need or want ATG service in North America will be able to avail of Gogo’s global LEO-powered IFC in standalone form.
“[T]his will be offered to business aircraft around the world. [Operators] need an AVANCE system — L3, L5 or SCS [Gogo’s Smart Cabin System with advanced router]. The SCS doesn’t come with ATG service, so you’re right that they do not need ATG for this service to work,” a Gogo spokesman explained when asked if a global operator can simply order the LEO-powered IFC solution.
“If a customer has L3 or L5, they will be able to add global broadband and can use either network while flying in North America or have satellite when they fly out of North America,” he added. Combining capacity from OneWeb’s LEO satellite network with Gogo’s ATG network will deliver “even higher capacity than LEO alone can provide”, noted Gogo, which lately has been competing on the ATG IFC front in the continental US with new entrant SmartSky Networks.
A new LEO satcom player, SpaceX’s Starlink, is also making gains, having recently secured ‘semi-private’ JSX and Hawaiian Airlines as customers.
GEO satellite-based IFC service providers Collins Aerospace, via LuxStream; Inmarsat Jet ConneX through value added resellers; and Viasat are also competing for BizAv tails in North America and around the world. Viasat expects to complete its acquisition of Inmarsat by the end of this year.
OneWeb, which has successfully launched 428 satellites of a planned 648-satellite LEO constellation, believes its agreement with Gogo Business Aviation represents a leap forward for business aviation connectivity. Company vice president mobility Ben Griffin in a statement said: “By harnessing the power of our LEO constellation to deliver robust, consistent, and reliable global coverage, OneWeb and Gogo will be able to offer an unmatched experience to business jet operators and passengers worldwide.”
Griffin in March told RGN that OneWeb still aims to introduce its inflight connectivity service in 2023, once the buildout of its constellation is complete. And today Gogo indicated that its new LEO-powered IFC will be available once the OneWeb network “is fully launched and commercially available”.
Hughes, meanwhile, first revealed its new technology for ESAs this spring at the Satellite 2022 conference in Washington DC, where it showed off a prototype for delivering OneWeb connectivity services. (Hughes is tight with OneWeb, having participated in the winning consortium that acquired OneWeb out of bankruptcy.)
In April, Hughes touted the low profile nature of its ESA, noting to RGN that the system has no moving parts and “is ideal for fixed and mobile applications”. But Hughes had no concrete aero plans to share at the time, and confirmed that flight-testing had not begun.
That narrative appears to have evolved, with Hughes vice president Reza Rasoulian saying in a statement today. “Gogo’s selection of the Hughes ESA solution affirms our engineering excellence and unlocks the value of OneWeb’s global capacity for high-speed, inflight broadband anywhere on the planet.”
Gogo’s spokesman confirmed to RGN that the Hughes/Gogo ESA not yet been flight-tested.
“Unlike GEO solutions, Gogo’s LEO service will include one fuselage-mounted unit with an integrated antenna, modem, power supply and RF converter; will only require 28 volts of DC power; will not rely on aircraft-positioning data; and will include an AVANCE router,” said Gogo, addressing the oft-cited power concerns surrounding ESAs. Company president and chief operating officer Sergio Aguirre assured that the system would be “fast and affordable” and “provide best-in-class global performance on the broadest range of aircraft in business aviation”.