Delta and American have done a lot to really improve inflight internet, especially on domestic flights. I find the high speed satellite internet usually works well and keeps me productive in the air. (Here’s the status of American Airlines internet and seat power.) This is a huge differentiator — indeed, United’s poor inflight internet makes them un-flyable or at least an airline to avoid when possible.
The old air to ground systems were revolutionary for their time, and improved upon over time, but still legions behind the latest satellite technology. Gogo gained the nicknames ‘NoGo’ and ‘SloGo’ as customers got used to – and began demanding – connectivity while airborne.
I’ve found, however, that even aircraft equipped with older air to ground technology have had better-working internet over the past couple of years as airlines transition away from that system and reduce demands on its capacity. The slowest inflight internet is often just a function of older systems the airlines haven’t upgraded.
Regional jets though have been stuck with slower internet speeds. In particular, they cannot be upgraded to Gogo’s 2Ku satellite system, the internet provider tells me, because “the radome is too large.” Still there’s a need to improve the inflight experience on regional jets. American is installing seat power on at least 200 regional jets this year, ironically ahead of getting power into most legacy US Airways domestic aircraft.
Gogo announced today that it “will build a 5G network for aviation.” This is a new air-to-ground network regional jets and smaller mainline jets operating in the US and Canada, and for business jets.
The 5G network is expected to launch in 2021, utilizing existing towers and “unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4GHz range, along with a proprietary modem and advanced beamforming technology. Gogo’s 5G infrastructure will support all spectrum types (licensed, shared, unlicensed) and bands (mid, high, low)…”
The internet provider says their 3G and 4G networks will continue to run to “provide backup to the 5G network when needed” however I imagine the truth is that they’ll need to continue to run as long as existing regional jets have older installs. They didn’t announce customers for the new service.