Gogo’s GTO: faster speeds, but still some limits

Big news is out this morning from the APEX Expo where Gogo is talking about their new Ground to Orbit (GTO) solution. It is a hybrid platform which will leverage their core ATG connectivity for uploads from the planes to the internet and add on a Ku-band satellite link for the delivery of data from the internet to the planes. By using a receive-only antenna they can realize a significantly higher gain on the system which translates to much higher download speeds relative to comparable bi-directional systems. It is also a smaller, lighter and less complex which means a lower TCO. And the initial testing suggests 60mbit speeds are sustainable on the kit.


But the system is not without its own limitations. Most significant is that it requires the ATG link to work. That means GTO will only function when the aircraft are in current gogo ATG service areas. No over-water flights for this system. Gogo is still up-beat on the utility of the offering, talking about the transcon market at the obvious market for the solution. And launch partner Virgin America is keen to get it in the air as well, noting that they were also the ATG4 launch partner. The system is expected to be live in the second half of 2014.

This is a big step forward in the market, to be sure. Like all the other options out there GTO has is pros and cons, but it is definitely changing the landscape.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I ‘d imagine the satellite antenna would still work over water, you just wouldn’t get the same benefits without the ground network. The ground antenna is fast but has limited capacity, and the satellite is slow but has huge capacity. That’s why it’s a hybrid system..

    1. The satellite can work wherever there is Ku-band coverage and there is plenty of that over oceans. But that’s only half of the connectivity solution. The system needs both the satellite AND the ATG bits to work. Without the ATG it doesn’t matter that the Ku coverage is there.

  2. This is in a way going back to the old dial up and sat combo kits where your uploads go over the phone and the downloads come via sat. They worked well but did have massive lag. I remember I guess 8 years or so ago getting over 20mb/s download for the first time via this type setup. One thing for sure it would kill any possibility of VOIP for those that have been using vpns and other workarounds for accessing voice systems.

    1. I had the same thought, Stephan. It makes sense in many ways, assuming it works and the price is right. And I don’t mind if it kills the VoIP sessions. I’m quite fine with that, actually.

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