AT&T announced today that it’s working on a way to bring in-flight Internet access to planes using technology based on the 4G LTE network it uses for smartphones and tablets.
Gogo’s stock tanked on the news. It was down as much as 24% after hours. Gogo is one of the most popular providers of in-flight WiFi.
AT&T says it will start offering in-flight Internet in late 2015. It’s partnering with Honeywell to install the necessary equipment on planes.
Here’s the full announcement from AT&T:
AT&T today announced plans to launch a high-speed 4G LTE-based in-flight connectivity service for airlines and passengers in commercial, business and general aviation. The service, planned to be available as soon as late 2015, will be capable of providing in-flight broadband for customers including fast, reliable Wi-Fi and onboard entertainment. Following launch, aviation customers can also expect improved connectivity solutions such as cockpit communications, maintenance operations and crew services.
To deliver this new service, AT&T plans to build an innovative air-to-ground network in the continental United States, based on global 4G LTE standards, to provide fast speeds and efficient utilization of spectrum already owned by AT&T. As the architect and operator of the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network**, AT&T has the expertise, spectrum and financial strength to transform airborne connectivity.
“Everyone wants access to high-speed, reliable mobile Internet wherever they are, including at 35,000 feet,” said John Stankey, Chief Strategy Officer at AT&T. “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.”
Honeywell, an aerospace industry leader, recently issued its Wireless Connectivity Survey indicating that in-flight Wi-Fi currently causes frustrations for nearly nine in 10 users worldwide, most often due to inconsistent or slow connections. AT&T plans to work with Honeywell to provide hardware and service capabilities to deliver the in-flight connectivity solution. Along with Honeywell’s expertise, AT&T’s technical strength and scale in building networks and managing their evolutions provide a unique opportunity to change the way passengers and airlines connect to the mobile Internet. With AT&T’s planned new network, passengers would gain the reliability they have long hoped for in the sky — for browsing the Internet, checking email, keeping in touch with friends and family through social networking and messaging services, and increasing business productivity. AT&T’s in-flight connectivity also offers the potential for improved communications between the plane and the ground through transmission of real-time aircraft data for optimising, monitoring and evolving airlines’ operations.
In-flight connectivity is a natural fit for AT&T, which over the past six years (2008 to 2013) has invested more than $US140 billion into its wireless and wireline networks, when you combine capital investment and acquisitions of spectrum and wireless operations, and already operates the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network. AT&T has more than 116 million wireless subscribers, more than 16.5 million total broadband subscribers and serves many of the world’s largest corporations, including all of the Fortune 1000. AT&T is a leader in connected devices and continues to win awards for its wireless and wireline services, while also continuing to innovate with its recent launches of its Connected Car platform and Drive Studio, and introduction of AT&T U-verse® with GigaPowerSM in select U.S. cities.
AT&T sees an opportunity to deliver an innovative and high-performing in-flight connectivity and entertainment service, and will build on existing relationships within the aviation industry to deliver a better customer experience than what is available from others today. AT&T plans for its in-flight connectivity service to support both business aviation and commercial airline customers from day one of the service launch. AT&T will provide information on pricing and availability prior to launch.
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