Gogo Inflight Internet: Is It Worthwhile?

by Aeyne Schriber on July 14, 2014 in Wireless

Just as we have become accustomed to staying connected on the ground, now there is a way to get a jump start on tasks while you are in the air using Gogo Inflight Internet.

Gogo inflight Internet is formerly known as Aircell and is a leading provider of Internet connectivity for commercial aircrafts. About 8 years ago, Gogo (Aircell) was awarded an exclusive frequency license by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and is the only company within the United States authorized by the FCC and Federal Aviation Administration to utilize 800MHz frequencies for inflight communications.

The 800MHz band is typically used as a cellular frequency for aviation communications. The exclusive license awarded to Aircell laid the groundwork for an air-to-ground broadband network designed specifically for inflight connectivity. Gogo Inflight Internet was first released in 2008 providing air travelers with access to the Internet 30,000 feet above the surface of the earth.

Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi has become an essential tool for travelers that need to stay connected with a fast and reliable Internet connection on flights with participating airlines. The company currently provides high speed Internet access to a major portion of the domestic airline market in the United States occupying more than 80 percent of the market share in commercial aviation in the US.

Even though Gogo has been granted exclusive rights by the FCC and FAA and they have increased in popularity with airline travelers, is getting onboard with Gogo Inflight Internet worthwhile?

Gogo Inflight Bandwidth

The main issue airline passengers have had in the past with Gogo Inflight Internet has been the bandwidth. This is primarily attributed to trying to obtain a broadband connection when the aircraft is traveling at a fast rate of speed. Gogo has advertised a download speed of 300Kbps (kilobits per second) with an upload speed of 100Kbps.

The download and upload speeds target the connection when approximately 25 percent of the passengers are simultaneously using the connection. As long as the bandwidth usage remains below 25 percent, you should be able to access a higher speed connection.

In this scenario, recent test revealed an average download speed of approximately 1.5 Mbps (megabits per second) and an upload speed of 200 kilobits per second (Kbps). This is a relatively decent bandwidth speed for working on email, playing simple games, and performing basic computing tasks.

In terms of streaming video, Gogo has stated in the past that they may never have enough bandwidth to stream video from services such as Netflix or Hulu Plus. However, this may change in the near future.

Currently Gogo Inflight Internet offers a service called Gogo Vision. This service allows airline passengers to access preloaded programming on the wireless network for the airline they are traveling with as an alternative to streaming videos from the Internet.

According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, Gogo announced that the company reached an agreement with multiple airlines that will allow the company to test run new satellite services known as GTO (ground-to-orbit). The agreement is an effort to speed up download capacities for its Inflight Internet services. If the test proves to be successful, it could potentially increase bandwidth by 70Mbps. This would be an improvement from the current 10Mbps being delivered from Gogo’s air-to-ground technology.

Gogo’s ultimate goal is to reach 100Mbps which will result in more people using the service at lower prices.

Gogo Inflight Internet Pricing

Currently, Gogo offers four different types of In-Air Internet Passes. An All Day Pass provides you with 24 hours of continuous Internet access using the same airline for $16.00. This pass is good with all partner airlines.

The One Hour Pass provides you with 60 minutes of continuous Internet access for $5.00 on any single domestic flight equipped with Gogo Inflight Internet. When it comes to this package, keep in mind that the average domestic flight in the United States is approximately two hours which means you would be paying $10 to access the Internet on a two-hour flight. If you travel a lot on business, this may be worth it. However, for the occasional traveler it may be worth thinking twice depending upon how you look at it. Especially since you can use wireless Internet during the first 15 minutes and last 15 minutes of your flight.

The third plan is Gogo Unlimited which provides you with unlimited monthly Internet for $59.95 on all flight equipped with Gogo Inflight Internet. This plan automatically renews itself each month.

The last plan is Airline Unlimited which provides you with unlimited monthly Internet access on your favorite airline equipped with Gogo Inflight Internet for $49.95. Like Gogo Unlimited, this plan automatically renews itself every month.

The plan or pass that is right for your needs will depend upon how often you travel. Overall, the prices for Gogo Inflight are rather reasonable for those who travel moderately or business people that are frequent flyers.

How Gogo Inflight Internet Works

Gogo Inflight Internet is based on a very simple concept. When you are on the go and using your mobile device, the device automatically search for the nearest connection or the stronger connection from nearby towers. As you travel, your device continually switches to the next nearest tower.

Gogo Inflight Internet works basically the same way except your mobile device is changing towers 30,000 feet above the earth. The towers are configured by Aircell which is the company behind Gogo Inflight Internet. During your flight, the airline network is continually switching towers as you travel and results in a reasonably fast and reliable Internet connection.

The video below provides a visualization of exactly how Gogo Inflight provides you with Internet access while you are traveling with an airline equipped with Gogo Inflight equipment.

Prior to boarding your flight, it is necessary to choose the plan that is appropriate for your needs. This can be accomplished using your mobile device and the GogoAir website. Before you do this you should:

  • Check Your Airline: Before you sign up with Gogo, make sure the airline you are traveling with is one of the participating airlines with Gogo Inflight. Currently the participating airlines are Air Canada, AirTran, Alaska Airlines, Delta, United, US Airways, and Virgin America.
  • Check Your Specific Flight: Although Gogo Inflight partners with a variety of airlines, this does not necessarily mean your particular flight is equipped with Gogo Inflight Internet equipment. With most of the airplanes in the fleet, you can check in advance to ensure your flight has Gogo Internet access.
  • Create an Account: In order to get started with Gogo, you must create an account. You will use this account to manage your Gogo Inflight Internet pass and to access your library of videos. These are movies and television programming you choose from the Gogo Vision inflight entertainment hub.
  • Download the Mobile App: It is a good idea to download the mobile app prior to boarding your flight, especially if your flight is short. This avoids hassles with downloading apps and getting setup while you are in the air and allows you to enjoy more Internet access time.

You can also use multiple devices during your flight but you must switch between the devices. For example, if you are using your laptop PC and you find the space on the airplane is a bit cramped, you can switch to your tablet PC or mobile phone without having to set up a separate account for that device.

You cannot use two devices that are logged into your account at the same time. Instead, you must sign out on one device and then sign back in on the other which is relatively seamless process.

Gogo Inflight Internet Technology

For the techies that really want to know about the actual technology that makes Gogo work, Gogo uses a high powered connection of EVDO Revision A. EVDO is a mobile broadband standard and Revision A means that it is an upgrade of the traditional EVDO connection. The upgraded connection is what makes the connection work in an airplane.

Gogo (Aircell) has its own network of towers that are specifically designed to provide in-air Internet access. Each tower is capable of transmitting a signal within a 350 mile radius and capable of communicating with aircrafts that fly up to 500 miles per hour.

The bottom of the plane has a transceiver installed which transmits the data to an onboard system and pushes everything out to an open wireless network. This type of configuration sometimes results in latency as the plane travels between the cell towers or is flying low after takeoff or before landing.

The fact that the WiFi network is open leaves the question of security. Currently Gogo Inflight Internet is an open network and is unencrypted with no link layer security. This is something to bear in mind when you use Gogo Inflight Internet. Perhaps in the near future Gogo will enhance the wireless network with WPA2 encryption but as of now, you should take the necessary precautions when accessing an open wireless connection.

Tips for Connecting with Gogo

Although Gogo Inflight Internet has overall positive reviews, you must remember that it is technology and technology can sometimes present some problems. Therefore, you may find yourself in an occasional situation where you have difficult logging onto Gogo. Below is a short video that provides answer to the most common problems experienced with Gogo.

Conclusion

One of the main complaints by consumers is the in-flight passes are only limited to a single flight. So, if you have to catch a connecting flight to reach your destination, it is necessary to purchase another pass. You can always opt to purchase a monthly pass, but this is not always the convenient route if you only travel occasionally.

Overall, Gogo Inflight Internet is a fast and reliable service that allows you to get work done just like you would in any other location. This helps many travelers recover valuable work time at a fairly reasonable price.

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