AvBuyer caught up with Gogo Business Aviation President Sergio Aguirre to gage his thoughts and perspectives on the wider jet connectivity industry as well as a successful year for his own company…
With the orders stacking up for the AVANCE L5 cabin connectivity solution, and the launch of the AVANCE L3 for smaller jets and turboprops, it’s been a vibrant year for Gogo. And its from that position that Mr. Aguirre sat down to discuss those successes and the progress and outlook for the wider jet connectivity industry.
AvBuyer: As an industry, we’ve seen some enormous strides made in aircraft connectivity over the past few years. Speaking about those industry advances in general, what is the most satisfying from your perspective?
Aguirre: I would say two things in this regard. First, the rate at which connectivity is being adopted in the Business Aviation marketplace has grown exponentially. As an example, when satellite service first became available a couple decades ago, it took 10 years before 200 aircraft had a system installed.
Today, one of the satellite providers reached 200 installs in a year. (In fact, we’ve reached 200 AVANCE L5 installations in less than that – and 60% of those were new installations, not upgrades.)
Second, the size of the aircraft installing connectivity has expanded tremendously. It used to be only the ‘heavier iron’ aircraft that were adding connectivity, but today we’re seeing growth in all segments from turboprops up. That’s good for passengers and it’s good for providers.
From a Gogo point of view we believe one of the biggest advancements for aircraft connectivity has been the development of the AVANCE platform. The AVANCE platform is truly innovative because it’s a software-centric approach (as opposed to hardware-centric).
That means the units are extremely flexible and scalable – even customizable to the user. So, if you sold an L3-equipped aircraft, the new owner could select the profile they need, and we can adjust it remotely without anyone needing to physically board the aircraft to change the hardware.
We’ve enabled remote diagnostics and solutions, and with L3 you can change configurations remotely to enable greater flexibility with the service we provide as the needs of the operator and/or passengers change.
It’s having a big impact on our bottom line because we’re not having to send out a technician to every issue, and it’s having a big impact on the bottom line of users because they no longer have to ground an aircraft and wait for us to get an issue resolved.
AvBuyer: Companies including Gogo have clearly worked hard to improve the connectivity solutions available to smaller jets and turboprops within North America.
Given the current restrictions on the hardware (i.e. antennas that can be installed on these smaller aircraft), how much room for improvement is there on the current state-of-the-art offerings for smaller aircraft?
Aguirre: From a hardware size and weight, and an antenna size and weight perspective, there’s not much more we can do without a technology shift.
But what you’re seeing, to address that market, is the improvement in passenger experience with the addition of features and functionality, putting it in a smaller form factor and at a price that is aligned with an aircraft’s mission.
The improvement to date has been less about antenna size or even the size of the LRU, but more on improving the value the passenger sees. Today, passengers flying on a smaller jet or even on a turboprop can get the same experience as those on larger aircraft, and that’s a significant advancement.
For smaller aircraft, for example, Gogo offers the AVANCE L3, which is a great system for individuals looking for basic internet and email. We are finding it’s having a higher uptake in the Light jet and Turboprop segments for a couple reasons.
First, its smaller and lighter weight, which is a plus for smaller airframes. Secondly, attractive and affordable service levels are offered for as low as $99/month.
The people who fly those aircraft are generally more cost-conscious and because their missions tend to be shorter they don’t tend to need full-blown connectivity for streaming video or video conferencing. For smaller airframes we’re pleased with the feedback we’re getting from our customers.
AvBuyer: Can you ever see a solution arriving that will bring the best of Ku- and Ka-band internet to smaller jets?
Aguirre: We are not working on anything in that space – our network is delivered via the Ku-band and we don’t have plans to introduce a Ka-band service.
For smaller jets we announced an agreement to be a service provider and value-added manufacturer for Iridium Certus which will deliver global coverage for smaller aircraft frames and the opportunity for safety services. We believe Iridium Certus will be a great fit for smaller jet owners who want global coverage.
AvBuyer: For the larger jets that do currently benefit from satellite connectivity, what’s the next step in enhancing today’s optimum solutions?
Aguirre: The next evolution will not be limited to larger jets – it will apply to a wider segment. The next evolution is in low-earth and medium-earth-orbiting satellites that will not require the larger, heavier tail-mount antennas like they do today.
Smaller conformal and low-profile antennas that connect to the lower-flying satellites will make satellite connectivity available to a broader set of aircraft worldwide.
Speaking for Gogo, we have been working to serve the needs of global customers, both today and for the future, and Gogo 2Ku is built on our Ku network providing global connectivity through our global satellite network to the world’s leading commercial airlines and to VVIP aircraft in Business Aviation.
We also announced deployment of a new Gogo Ku product aimed for the Business Aviation market. With the Ku network, Gogo leverages an open architecture, which means we aren’t limited, and can add capacity by expanding our commercial agreements with the satellite providers.
AvBuyer: What would be the ultimate goal, from your perspective, for aircraft connectivity in the future? How is Gogo working towards that goal currently?
Aguirre: I believe one of the most important characteristics about the AVANCE platform is that it’s one of the first real examples of IoT (Internet of Things) in aviation.
Did you know that with the newest aircraft one wing can have up to 10,000 sensors? The challenge is getting the data from those sensors transmitted as it’s being collected, which we can do with our network and with Gogo AVANCE.
As an interesting example, a partnership we have with The Weather Company sees us collect turbulence data and transmit it in real-time. It’s a big change in how turbulence information is provided to the industry.
Also with Gogo AVANCE, sensors in our units are detecting if there are any issues “real time” with our system on the aircraft and it will send messages directly to our technicians regarding the nature of the issue. Our goal is to have no issues, but if something does occur we want to know about it before it becomes an issue for the users on the aircraft.
IoT capabilities on aircraft will have an impact far beyond aviation alone. Cybersecurity will continue to increase in its importance. For Gogo, keeping our customer’s data safe is a top priority. That’s why we built cybersecurity measures into our systems from the beginning. It’s built into our network and our onboard systems, and we’ve been doing that for a long time.
Gogo is unique in that we own the entire connectivity experience from end-to-end. We own and operate our own network. We manage the towers, backhaul and the spectrum. We own and operate our data centers and we have two data centers which provide security and safety. And, since we manufacture our systems, we own what goes into those, too.
More information from https://business.gogoair.com/