You may not have heard of Gogo, an in-flight WiFi provider from Chicago, Illinois. That’s because, while the firm has kitted out many big-name US airlines with its technology, few in the UK have experienced it. Until now.
V3 was taken aboard Gogo’s own Boeing 737, nicknamed ‘Jimmy Ray’ after one of the company’s founders, to test the firm's newly launched 2Ku technology.
The company claims that this improved WiFi service offers double the speed of the two-year-old Ku technology thanks to the two Ku-band antennae attached to the aircraft.
We promised before we left for the trip that we’d work as normal throughout the flight; we'd be available on Skype, filing stories and uploading images, posting stories across multiple social networks, checking on emails and, naturally, watching a bit of Mr. Robot on the sly.
These promises were made largely based on the fact that we love flying and planned to go regardless of the efficiency of the in-flight WiFi, but we were pleasantly surprised by the speeds on offer with Gogo’s 2ku solution.
There were around 15 of us on the flight, the journalists among us trying to push the WiFi to its limits and, let’s be honest, cause it to go tits up.
But it held up no matter what we threw at it and offered speeds between 9Mbps and 18Mbps throughout the journey. WiFi was available on the ground, during take-off and, of course, while in the sky.
Gogo explained that the data speeds from the SES-4 satellite being used during the test flight were restricted to 20-25Mbps, but that the technology could offer speeds, in theory, of up to 70Mbps.
Gogo remained optimistic when quizzed as to whether these speeds would drop on a plane with 300 people onboard, as opposed to the modest 15 during the hour-long flight circling London's Stanstead airport.
The firm said that some passengers would be asleep, others reading, some using in-flight entertainment services, and it would not expect to see a drop in download speeds.
These speeds meant I kept good on my promise. I was available on Skype throughout the entire journey, besides a couple of minutes of unexplained downtime, and managed to keep on top of editing, emails and, most importantly, Mr. Robot. Video playback on Amazon Prime Video was impressively smooth and while we experienced a couple of seconds of buffering at the beginning, playback was otherwise smooth and judder-free.
If you want to take a break from working, Gogo offers its own in-flight entertainment in the form of an IPTV service. This is accessible via a dedicated website while in the air and offers live TV streaming courtesy of BBC News and live sports coverage.
It felt bizarre to be able to watch a live stream of news at 30,000ft, and the Gogo team told us that the IPTV functionality meant that on their journey into London earlier in the week they were able to watch last week's Brussels terrorist attack unfold as it happened.
The one promise I couldn't keep was that I'd upload images throughout the journey. Upload speeds were frankly terrible at 0.33Mbps to 0.48Mbps, but Gogo told us that this is for "safety reasons”.
This means that you’d struggle to upload your out-of-the-window snaps to Facebook or to make a FaceTime call, but it’s hard to view this as a bad thing given how annoying that would be to fellow passengers.
Gogo told us that 32 devices had managed to plough through 7.96Gbps of data during the hour-long journey.
This raises questions about the costs involved, but also shows that Gogo's 2Ku technology could revolutionise long-haul flights for WiFi-hungry travellers, in particular, those on business.
Some will prefer to stick to napping and catching up on the new Star Wars film. But Gogo has promised to bring the 2Ku technology to hundreds of aircraft, and working on the go could be about to get a lot more productive.
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