Since introducing AVANCE L3 in January, Gogo has shipped more than 65 units. Dave Higdon reviews this lighter jet connectivity solution to find out why it’s proving so popular…
Avionics and electronics firms continue to advance the state-of-the-art for in-flight internet connectivity, shrinking the size, weight and power needs of the hardware. And as they do, the fleet of eligible aircraft, and uses of these systems expands.
Gogo Business Aviation offers one of the more versatile options in its AVANCE L3 system. “The AVANCE L3 is sized to fit single-engine turboprops and light jets, but it's not a lightweight system,” explains Paul Bowman, Gogo's product manager for the AVANCE products.
“Both the L3 and L5 operate on the AVANCE platform – a software-based system that allows flexibility and customization as customer needs change. It's made to fit a new user's existing needs with a robust feature set, and can also accommodate service-level upgrades without the need to touch the unit in the aircraft.”
According to Gogo, the AVANCE L3 package represents “the smallest fully-integrated connectivity system available today.”
It connects to the Gogo broadband network with the integration and flexibility of the company's powerful AVANCE software platform.
While it isn’t promoted as a ‘be-all’ solution, the L3 package does deliver a broad array of services and features.
The main feature lacking is support for heavy data-use live streaming. Streaming live files and services such as video conferences are more within the remit of Gogo's more capable AVANCE L5 platform, which employs the same network.
But that difference means little to most users of the L3 system, thanks to the depth of its other features. From my findings, ‘feature-deep’ aptly describes the L3 platform for operators of smaller aircraft.
How it Works...
Gogo's AVANCE L3 platform works similarly to the L5, making its connection between aircraft and Gogo's digital-backbone via a ground network similar to the network of towers through which our cell phones connect to their providers’ system.
The use of a ground-based network results in some brief performance limitations at altitudes below 10,000ft msl, where connections may drop out briefly as the aircraft transitions between one tower’s coverage-area to the next.
Business aircraft spend relatively little time below 10,000ft, however, so this limitation imposes little practical burden on the user. Typically business jets and turboprops clear 10,000ft within minutes of take-off.
Once above 10,000msl, Bowman explained, the connection becomes fully robust. “Once above 10,000msl, hand-offs from tower-to-tower are smooth with no drop-outs,” he explained.
The coverage area ranges beyond the coastal boarders of the Continental US, into the Canadian plains and Rockies, and north along Canada's western shore to cover much of Alaska.
When on the ground at an airport the L3 can connect with wireless internet or cell phone networks for continued use.
The question for the prospective user centers on which level of capability to select.
Gogo AVANCE L3 works via a network of ground-based towers
One Upgradable Box, Three Levels of Capabilities
Gogo offers three levels of capability from the same MCU hardware package for L3, with pricing starting around $40,000, plus installation.
Level 1 – Gogo Core: Offering the lowest level of capability, Gogo Core optimizes the L3 MCU for “light internet use” (defined as web browsing that’s limited to sites with minimal bandwidth requirements). Sites with minimal graphics and without embedded videos offer a better experience here.
L3 Core level also supports Gogo Talk and Text, using individuals’ phones with a subscription for the service and connections (up to five devices simultaneously with L3 Core).
It also supports email with file attachments, and Gogo Vision information and entertainment services. (Gogo Vision includes moving map displays, weather information, Bloomberg news clips, licensed movies, TV and magazine libraries with a subscription).
Level 2 – Gogo Plus: The first step up from Gogo Core supports all the same services for as many as seven devices, but provides a more robust internet experience, minus streaming.
Level 3 – Gogo Max: Once installed, Gogo Max offers the same experience available with Gogo Plus, but can support up to 25 devices.
Flexible Service Plans
Gogo matches the three levels of capability with depth in its available service plans. Under the Core level of service, for example, Gogo offers plans based on hourly, monthly and annual rates, providing subscribers plenty of flexibility, whereas both the Plus and Max levels of service offer monthly or annual rate plans.
Gogo offers a variety of service plans for the AVANCE L3 package. The least-binding plan is the pay-as-you-go plan which does not have an initial or monthly charge, but users of the plan face a per-megabyte charge of $6.95. For 60Mb of data use, however, Gogo charges $395 month (plus $5.95 per additional megabyte).
Fee levels continue for 250Mb, 1Gb and 2.5Gb monthly, with overage charges reduced for each step-up in service.
At Gogo's Biz Pro level, clients face no fixed data ceiling and no overages at a monthly subscription fee of $3,995. For the low-user Core package Gogo also offers an hourly data plan starting at $99 an hour.
Conversely, for the heavy user Gogo offers annual pre-paid plans starting at $2,495 annually for up to 500Mb of data. Unused data rolls over, while overages are billed on a monthly basis. For 2Gb the annual subscription fee rises to $7,995, and $12,995 for 5Gb.
Ease of Interchange
Regardless of which service level a client elects to install, switching to one of the other levels means making software changes only. In other words, the same MCU and antenna support all three levels of service – Core, Plus or Max.
According to Bowman, the change between steps can be performed with the aircraft in the shop or on the ramp, remotely from a Gogo dealer, or from wherever the system can make a connection with MCU. No one has to physically board the aircraft and touch the system, which is new for the industry.
The owner is simply required to pay the price difference between the original and the new configuration if they choose to move up the scale to add more capabilities. “It's made to be easy for the operator to move up or down as their needs require it,” Bowman said.
Connectivity for Smaller Cabins
Gogo positions AVANCE L3 as being Business Aviation's smallest, lowest-cost solution for giving the company airplane in-flight internet capabilities. “Examples of smallest aircraft L3 can fit?” Bowman pondered. “It would fit on a Cirrus SF50 VisionJet, a HondaJet or a Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprop. Those are just examples - but the list is long.”
The AVANCE L3 will also work in larger aircraft for the operator who requires airborne-internet capabilities – but without the need for the larger, more powerful systems available on the market.
More information from https://business.gogoair.com