Washington / Bloomberg
The public spat between American Airlines Group Inc. and Gogo Inc., which provides the bulk of the carrier’s domestic inflight Wi-Fi, could be considered the final blow to ground-based internet access that has become another irritating part of the air-travel experience.
It will take years for Gogo to install its backlog of orders for faster Internet service, but at least the beginning of the end of a sluggish era of in-flight Wi-Fi is finally near. The fight started when American petitioned a Texas district court on February 12 to enforce a contract term allowing it to ditch Gogo for a faster service from rival ViaSat Inc. Ten days later — once Gogo shares had tanked by more than a third — American withdrew its request for a declaratory judgment after Gogo agreed with American’s interpretation of that contract provision. Gogo will submit a proposal to improve the service on the roughly 200 American planes.
Gogo has touted its new satellite-based broadband service, called 2Ku, as the next-generation platform to compete against a slew of aggressive rivals, including ViaSat, Panasonic, and Global Eagle Entertainment, and has won more than 800 orders. The 2Ku service is what Gogo will offer American in its proposal to upgrade the jets, mostly older Boeing 737s that fly across the U.S.
Gogo’s chief executive officer, Michael Small, said his company will send a proposal for a better service by March 20. “We will fight for every plane,” he said Thursday on an earnings call with analysts.
An American spokesman, Casey Norton, said the company has not decided which service to adopt on the planes covered by Gogo’s contract.
“If Gogo chooses to submit a proposal in response to the competitive offering, we will evaluate it,” he said in an e-mail. The contract would allow American to defect to ViaSat after it reviews Gogo’s offer.
Gogo says the dual-band Ku service is capable of delivering top speeds of 70 megabits per second, compared with the 9.8 Mbps of its former speed leader, a ground-based
technology called ATG4.
Over time, as satellite-beaming techniques are perfected, Gogo believes speeds of 100 Mbps will be possible.