Telecom conglomerate AT&T is flying straight into the Gogo skies, announcing installation of full-service LTE technology for the aviation industry.
The technology should be deployed by 2015, and will allow passengers to access high-speed Internet and entertainment from their seats via their own devices.
This is a significant move, as current AT&T customers would be enticed to purchase add-on coverage and would reduce demand for the services that airlines have installed rapidly in the past couple of years.
Challenging the ability of WiFi providers like Gogo to recoup investment is a bold move, and one that could lead to a much more rapid uptake of in-flight WiFi usage.
The technology will come via a complex ground-to-air system, which will send signals to 30,000 feet to passengers' devices. AT&T will work with Honeywell to provide the necessary technology to facilitate this new connectivity.
In the announcement, AT&T's Chief Strategy Office John Stankey points to the recent Honeywell study that found frustration in 9 out of 10 passengers when it comes to in-flight connectivity.
Everyone wants access to high-speed, reliable mobile Internet wherever they are, including at 35,000 feet.
We are building on AT&T’s significant strengths to develop in-flight connectivity technology unlike any other that exists today, based on 4G LTE standards. We believe this will enable airlines and passengers to benefit from reliable high speeds and a better experience. We expect this service to transform connectivity in the aviation industry – we are truly mobilizing the sky.
This is a huge development for AT&T-device toting travelers, as it eliminates an additional middleman by allowing continuous connection for current customers in-flight.
LTE should also provide lightning fast speeds, especially when compared to today's often sluggish and unreliable on-board WiFi solutions. The company says the service will be available for both private and commercial aviation, and has yet to announce pricing or how the offering will be accessed by consumers. The telecom giant has 116 million wireless subscribers.
Current in-flight WiFi providers are already feeling the pain: Gogo Inc.'s stock opened over 20% down, dropping $4 per share to hover around $14.50.
NB: Tower image courtesy Shutterstock.