Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How Internet Works on the Plane

Gogo's EVDO System
I have taken to using Gogo internet when I am traveling on business. The price depends on the length of the flight, a short flight can be $5 and a longer flight $10.

I wondered how it worked. It is simpler than I thought. It is just like a cell phone in the car.

The plane is picking up signals from Gogo's cell tower network across the country.  The towers look just like regular cell towers so much that there was no reason to have a picture.

Antenna for reception of ground based internet using
Gogo's EVDO system. 
The plane has a small antenna mounted on the bottom to accept the signal. Just like a regular cell phone, the plane switches between towers based on reception.

There is another system for aircraft internet involving an antenna on top the plane and reception from satellites. United just picked Panasonic Avionics Corporation for its Ku satellite based technology.  Panasonic Avionics makes the passenger entertainment systems that show movies and plays music. (For example Delta uses Panasonic Avionics to show movies on its longer flights.)

Gogo is planning an upgrade to a faster technology soon, and they are thinking about a satellite based solution for the future. It is possible satellite based is cheaper.