Business & GA, Connectivity

Gogo Shifts Focus to Business Aviation with Completion of Commercial IFC Sale to Intelsat

Gogo is all-in on business and general aviation now that it has completed the sale of its commercial aviation division to Intesat. (Gogo Business Aviation)

Gogo will shift its in-flight connectivity (IFC) focus to business aviation after completing the $400 million sale of its commercial aviation segment to Intelsat on Dec. 1.

Under their new structure, Chicago-based Gogo will continue to operate as a publicly traded company, focused on leveraging its air to ground (ATG) network and "proprietary spectrum to serve the business aviation market," according to a Dec. 1 press release. North American business aviation operator usage of Gogo’s network has not recovered completely, however that segment of their customer base was able to restore 80 percent of its 2019 flight activity and in-flight Internet usage during the third quarter of 2020.

"In our third quarter earnings, we announced there were 5,577 aircraft flying today using the Gogo air-to-ground network – which today includes more than 1,500 aircraft flying with either Gogo AVANCE L5 or L3. We also announced we have 4,737 aircraft with satellite connectivity installed (primarily L-band)," a representative told Avionics International in an emailed statement.

Business aviation has been a quarter-by-quarter story for Gogo this year, as the company experienced 940 account suspensions and more than 750 service plan downgrades in March and April, which CEO Oakleigh Thorne described as the period where they "bottomed out" prior to an upswing in business aviation IFC service activations between April and September.

Next generation connectivity plans for Gogo's business aviation division are centered around its 5G network deployment, scheduled to become available in 2021. Gogo describes its 5G service as a combination of unlicensed 2.4GHz spectrum and beamforming technology in a new ATG network.

The 5G service will be enabled by a new antenna, modem and one additional line replaceable unit, according to Gogo. Satellite connectivity will remain an option for Gogo's business aviation operators as well.

"We want to really invest in order to develop 5G and other new products to continue to strengthen the franchise," Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne said during the company's Nov. 9 third quarter earnings call.

Gogo plans on launching its fifth generation ATG network in 2021. The overall concept of operations outlined by Gogo when its 5G service was initially announced includes 5G provided to non-urban areas, augmented by their existing 3G/4G service. Urban areas of airspace would see the reverse, with 3G/4G provided to aircraft flying over and that would be augmented by the new 5G service. (Gogo)

"Gogo AVANCE L5 and Gogo 2Ku (satellite) provide streaming video service, and there are more than 1,000 AVANCE L5 systems installed and flying today," Gogo's representative said. "Additionally, AVANCE L5 is a line-fit option on more than 24 different makes and models at six aircraft OEMs, and more than 50 aircraft models are covered by full equipment STCs that have been developed by Gogo’s aftermarket channel."

A number of personnel changes will occur along with the sale of the commercial aviation business to Intelsat. John Wade, president of Gogo's Commercial Aviation division will remain in that position, as the CA business  keeps the legacy branding with "Gogo, an Intelsat Company."

Gogo commercial aviation is now an Intelsat company. (Intelsat)

Jon Cobin has been named Intelsat’s Chief Strategy Officer, leading the company’s corporate strategy and business development efforts. Cobin joins Intelsat from Gogo, where he served most recently as Chief Strategy Officer.

According to Intelsat, the satellite company will now be providing broadband connectivity for nine of the "top 20 global airlines and an installed base of more than 3,000 commercial aircraft are now part of Intelsat’s portfolio of services," the company said in a Dec. 1 press release.

"The completion of the sale of our CA business to Intelsat marks the beginning of a new chapter for Gogo; we are a leader in business aviation and now turn our singular focus toward serving that attractive market," Thorne said in a statement. "Our business aviation division has proven resilient in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the number of business aircraft online today has nearly returned to January levels."

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