Inflight communication systems create a comfortable experience for passengers who are looking to text, catch up on emails, or stream while they’re in the air. It’s a system that isn’t an essential avionics upgrade, but it’s one that makes a world of difference for the passenger. But which inflight communication system is best? There are a handful of systems on the market today, but we’ve compared the two primary providers: Gogo and Airtext.
Gogo Inflight Connectivity and Entertainment
Gogo is an inflight internet company that gives air travelers the freedom to work and be entertained while in the air. Gogo offers inflight connectivity and entertainment systems for business aviation, commercial aviation, as well as service plans for individual passengers. Here, we’re specifically looking at business aviation benefits as those systems are for turboprop and turbine airplanes.
For business aviation, Gogo offers their AVANCE system, which offers a complete digital engine that drives internet, voice, entertainment, cockpit apps, self-service tools, and remote support.
Gogo’s inflight internet allows executives to continue with the wireless business communication experience they’re used to. Gogo offers two connectivity options: AVANCE L3 Wifi and AVANCE L5 & 4G.
Gogo AVANCE L3 is Gogo’s most affordable platform-based solution that gets an aircraft online so passengers can achieve more during their flight. The AVANCE L3 option offers:
- Inflight Entertainment (though streaming services are not available)
- Cockpit App Data
- Built-in Cybersecurity
The AVANCE wifi is available starting at 3,000ft AGL, which is a new development compared to its previous 10,000ft starting point, so passengers can be connected earlier and longer. AVANCE L3 typically maxes out at 25 devices that can simultaneously connect to the cabin wifi.
AVANCE L5 & 4G
Where AVANCE L3 offers solid broadband connectivity, L5 boosts performance to three times faster. With AVANCE L5, passengers and crew can benefit from:
- Streaming video/audio
- Inflight Entertainment
- Cockpit App Data
- Scale Data
- Control Services
- Management of Network Data
AVANCE L5 typically maxes out at 40 devices that can simultaneously connect to wifi. One of the biggest entertainment benefits with AVANCE L5 versus AVANCE L3 is that L5 offers streaming capabilities, so passengers can stream their favorite TV shows or movies in-air.
Although streaming services aren’t available with AVANCE L3, inflight entertainment still is. With the Gogo Vision 360 feature, popular on-demand entertainment is made available. Passengers can enjoy the latest blockbuster movies and TV shows at any time.
Not to mention, the Gogo Vision 360 offers a 3D moving map, so passengers can follow their flight in real time. With a game-like 3D interactive map experience, passengers will be able to spot points-of-interest and have realistic reference points for where they are in their flight.
Gogo is able to offer a proven inflight voice network that allows passengers the ability to take their conversations to the sky. Currently, Gogo offers three plans: Gogo Biz, Iridium, and SwiftBroadband.
Gogo Biz is only available to those with the AVANCE L5 option, but it’s a key component for leveraging Gogo’s Text & Talk service. Gogo Text & Talk allows passengers and crew to use their personal smartphone to call or text in the air, just as they would on the ground. It uses an individual’s personal phone number rather than call-forwarding protocols or pre-programmed extensions, as is standard with over inflight voice services. And because it works through the AVANCE L5 wifi connection, there is no need for expensive picocell technology.
Rather than leveraging a wifi connection, the Iridium voice system takes advantage of a satellite network. It’s a popular and cost-effective system that allows for global voice service and helps business aviation companies achieve Future Air Navigation System (FANS) compliance.
Iridium offers narrowband data applications like fax, cockpit data, and data safety services, and runs on Low Earth Orbit satellites for reliable global coverage.
Iridium voice service requires cabin handsets or mobile devices equipped with the Gogo Text & Talk app.
SwiftBroadband offers reliable, near-global inflight voice and data connectivity, which is achieved by a single installation system. This system leverages three geostationary Inmarsat satellites.
SwiftBroadband’s data connectivity allows passengers to stay productive in flight as they use their laptops, tablets, or smartphones to browse the internet, securely log in to their corporate networks, transfer data, or send and receive emails. Essentially, SwiftBroadband offers home and office access, even when passengers are miles above.
Gogo offers two levels of cybersecurity options to their business aviation customers: Wireless Network Security and Virtual Private Network (VPN). Soon they will also be offering advanced encryption opportunities for the highest level of security.
Wireless Network Security
For individuals used to conducting business wirelessly, they won’t miss a bit with the Wireless Network Security option. Gogo’s airborne networks seamlessly provide the same high level of security that wireless carriers offer on the ground.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
If passengers have a shared drive or network that they need to access in order to continue with business as usual, they have that option with Gogo. Whatever security solution passengers already have around their VPN will remain the same and secure when accessing it on the flight.
Airtext Data Connectivity
Airtext lets aircraft owners offer on-board email, phone calling, and text messaging for up to 16 passengers. While this system is not nearly as robust as Gogo, it offers the basic comforts that may be the only features that passengers will need—particularly for shorter flights where features like on-demand or streaming services aren’t necessary.
Airtext features are offered via physical hardware versus wifi and satellite connectivity, so there are more installation requirements for Airtext versus Gogo. There are four hardware install options for aircraft owners to choose from, each with varying price points and data plans.
The basic Airtext plan features a small, paperback-book sized, FAA-approved box weighing around one pound. That box is installed on the aircraft and connects to an existing Iridium phone antenna. With the box installed, up to 16 passengers on the aircraft can connect to Airtext using the BLE (bluetooth low energy) setting on their smartphone.
Passengers can also download the free Airtext app to send and receive text messages while on board. There is a cost to sending and receiving messages, however, at 5-cents per message.
There is an upfront cost for the hardware, as well as an ongoing data plan.
Similarly, the Airtext+ plan features a small, FAA-approved box that is installed in the aircraft and aids in inflight voice and text. The same features as the basic Airtext plan convey, with the addition of voice calls and email. Voice calls can be achieved with a pre-paid Iridium sim card.
The AirtextLT is smaller than the Airtext and Airtext+ hardware. Measuring 4.75” x 3” x 1”, the hardware is the size of a smartphone. Included with the AirtextLT hardware is the unit, carrying case, six foot USB-A to USB-A cable, and a portable Iridium antenna.
AirtextLT supports up to six simultaneous users using the BLE setting on their phones, and allows passengers to send and receive text messages at any altitude. Crew members also have the ability to request and receive D-ATIS, METARs, ASOS, and TAFs data anywhere in the world.
No installation is required with the AirtextLT plan.
The AirtextLT+ all of the same functionality as the AirtextLT with a few upgrades. In addition to sending and receiving text messages, passengers can also send and receive emails using the Airtext app.
No installation is required for the AirtextLT+ plan.
Which Inflight Communication System is Best?
Just like with any avionics upgrade, you have to ask yourself who your primary passengers will be, what air travel will look like for them, and what the requirements are for those passengers. If your aircraft is primarily used for leisure travel or longer business flights, Gogo may be the best option as its entertainment features are far more robust. However, if your flights are shorter and the needs of your passengers are more utilitarian in nature, Airtext may be the ideal—and more affordable—option.
If you’re ready to talk next steps for your inflight communication system, or for any other avionics upgrade, contact our expert team today.