Gogo to provide Japan Airlines with domestic Internet

Reuters

By Alwyn Scott

NEW YORK, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Gogo Inc said onMonday it had agreed to provide Japan Airlines Co Ltd with in-flight Internet service on the airline's domestic fleetof 77 aircraft, marking Gogo's first significant internationalcontract, according to the company's chief executive.

Shares of Gogo were up 10.6 percent at $17.94 in afternoontrade in New York on Monday.

The in-flight Internet provider, based in Itasca, Illinois,said the JAL service would use Gogo's satellite technology andbegin operating by mid-2014.

The deal is another step in a global race to provide betterInternet connections on more planes, especially over oceans,using satellites and aircraft-mounted antennas that swivel as aplane flies to keep tracking the satellite beam.

Gogo's current system is largely ground-based and operatesmainly in the United States, where it is the largest in-flightconnectivity provider, with about 80 percent market share ofWiFi-equipped aircraft.

JAL will be among the first airlines to employ Gogo'ssatellite system operating in the so-called Ku-band frequencies,Gogo Chief Executive Michael Small said in an interview.

Gogo offers Ku-band in conjunction with satellite servicescompanies SES SA of Luxembourg and IntelSat SA of Luxembourg.

Delta Air Lines Inc also has contracted to use theKu-band service on all 170 of its planes that fly internationalroutes, Small said, noting that either Delta or JAL would be thefirst to offer the service to customers.

Without satellite systems, airline passengers had limited orno internet access over oceans. But that's about to change asmore airlines sign up for satellites.

A competing satellite internet standard using a slightlydifferent Ka-band frequency spectrum is scheduled to beginoperations over the next few years. JetBlue Airways Corp and United Continental Holdings Inc arescheduled to roll out Ka-band internet service using a ViaSatInc satellite by the end of 2013, pending regulatorycertification.

ViaSat began operating its first Ka-band broadband satellitein January and plans to launch a second in 2016. The systemoffers many more times the bandwidth of Ku-band systems, saidDon Buchman, ViaSat's director of mobile broadband.

JetBlue plans to offer broadband free to passengers checkingemail or doing light web browsing and charge for upgrades ifpassengers want to stream video, he said.

United is equipping long-haul international planes withKu-band systems and U.S.-based flights with Ka-band. It also isoffering passengers tiered service, with passengers paying a$2-$5 premium to get faster broadband. United says it also usesGogo's air-to-ground service on some routes.

Small said the differences between Ka-band and Ku-band areminor and the Ku-band system is available now.

JAL's deal also makes that airline the first Japanesecarrier to offer domestic in-flight internet, the airline said.

Small said Gogo aims to increase the number of aircraftusing its system in the United States and is working oninternational deals.

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