Ina Fried

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Gogo’s New Antennas Should Improve In-Flight Wi-Fi, but Don’t Expect Netflix

Gogo, the company that powers inflight Internet service for a variety of airlines, is counting on new antennas to help speed things up and allow more passengers to surf at the same time.

The new set-up doubles overall network capacity and should triple peak speeds.

That should allow more people on a flight to reliably use the service for the same kinds of things — email, Web browsing and even short video clips. However, Gogo won’t be giving the green light to bandwidth-intensive uses such as video chat or Hulu streaming.

“It is really not economically feasible on any wireless link,” Gogo chief technology officer Anand Chari said in an interview. That’s true of cellular carriers, which have largely done away with unlimited plans, and all the more so for Gogo. “It’s just a lot more expensive to deliver a byte to an airplane.”

To show off the service improvements, Gogo is taking reporters on a series of test flights from Chicago on Monday. AllThingsD took a pass (our flight schedule is busy enough), but Chari did take time last week to talk through the changes.

Gogo first started moving to the new antennas in September, and plans to have them on 600 flights by the end of next year.

Meanwhile, the company has also been making some moves on the pricing front. Prices have jumped on some longer flights, while the company has added options to purchase just an hour or two. Chari said the company is looking for new ways to manage its limited capacity and offer additional options.

“We continue to do some price changes to make sure that demand and supply are kept in line and to make sure there is an acceptable user experience for everyone,” Chari said.

For cheapskates (such as yours truly), there are a couple options to avoid higher fees. One can buy a day pass from Gogo’s Web site from the ground (even at the gate in the airport) for about $13. Google is also including 12 free day passes with the purchase of its newest crop of Chromebooks. Acer’s just-announced C7 model sells for $199 and also includes 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years.


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