Gogo, which sells Internet services to airlines, said it will build a high-tech 5G network using equipment from a set of US-based vendors. Specifically, the company said Cisco (based in California), Airspan (based in Florida) and First RF (based in Colorado) would provide all the major elements for a nationwide 5G network that's expected to launch in 2021.
"When we announced we were going to build a 5G network for aviation, we stated that we would leverage the expertise of U.S.-based companies to help us bring it to life," Sergio Aguirre, president of Gogo Business Aviation, said in a release. "The three partners we're announcing today are on the leading edge of wireless network technology and together we will bring the most capable network and systems in aviation."
That Gogo is using US suppliers for its network comes as no surprise. Last year, Gogo was well into a 4G LTE upgrade of its terrestrial network, with more than ten towers already installed, but had to cancel that project because it was using equipment from ZTE. That project was later scuttled because the Trump administration last year temporarily banned US businesses from working with China's ZTE. Gogo's 4G upgrade efforts were caught in the crossfire, and Gogo ultimately abandoned its plan with ZTE.
In the aftermath, Gogo announced earlier this year it would skip 4G altogether and instead build a 5G network, leading today's vendor disclosure. Gogo said Cisco will supply the core network for the offering; Airspan will provide virtualized-RAN basestations and Massive MIMO antenna arrays; and First RF will provide the receivers that customers will install on the bottom of airplanes to get the Gogo service.
Gogo's 5G network will use 250 towers around the US transmitting in the unlicensed 2.4GHz spectrum band. The 5G signals will be beamed into the sky so that airplanes passing overhead can receive them. Gogo officials have said the network will enable speeds ten times faster than what it currently provides with its existing 3G CDMA network in its 850MHz spectrum.
And, interestingly, Gogo said its terrestrial 5G network will outperform its satellite-based network. "When compared to satellite technologies, ground-based network technologies in general deliver operational advantages -- specifically lower cost of operation, symmetric bi-directional throughput, and lower latency," the company explained in a release.