Inflight connectivity provider Gogo is in the final stages of preparing a new SMS service, dubbed Gogo 2-way. In contrast to already existing inflight mobile phone services, Gogo 2-way will run entirely over the Wi-Fi infrastructure, eliminating the need for a separate GSM pico cell solution on board aircraft.
In an interview with the APEX editor’s blog at the recent APEX EXPO in Long Beach, California, Steve Nolan, director of PR and communications at Gogo, detailed how the service operates. “The product will allow people to text message commercially from their own device, using the Wi-Fi system. It will also use your own phone number. To our knowledge, it will be the first that will allow you to do this.”
Users of smart phones will be able to head to their respective app stores, and download a special Gogo 2-way application. “It will leverage your own system, and route it through the Wi-Fi service,” notes Nolan. The receiver of the message will not know that you are using the Gogo 2-Way service, as the message comes in with the regular phone number attached. “It’s just another way to communicate in the air,” Nolan adds. “If it works out like we are testing it, it will behave exactly like your own carriers text.”
Nolan explains that the technical side of Gogo 2-way is complete, but that the pricing depends on the type of business model the company decides upon. “Do you charge people a certain amount of money for the app, and you download it and you can have unlimited text? Do you do it independent of Wi-Fi or Internet connectivity? In other words, if you don’t want to browse the web, do you just have an app that people can download and use the SMS service?”
Current inflight mobile phone voice and messaging solutions operate on the GSM standard, requiring the installation of a separate network to support mobile phone communications. This obviously adds weight to the aircraft, as well as added network complexity. And, at present, the US Federal Communications Commission disallows the inflight use of mobile phones via CDMA or GSM. An advantage to inflight GSM, however, is that mobile phones work just as they do on the ground, with the telco handling the billing.
Other text-over-Wi-Fi services, such as WhatsApp and iMessage allow people to text others via Wi-Fi. However, these solutions are limited in their capabilities, as they can only message other users who have the same service. For instance, iMessage is limited to “anyone texting over Wi-Fi using an iOS device or Mac with iMessage”.
The Gogo 2-Way solution will be able to message the user of any mobile device that receives SMS, regardless of what platform or apps are running on their smart phone. Other messaging solutions require full, paid Internet access.
Gogo 2-Way is expected to launch sometime in the second half of 2013, and will be available in the US market. Gogo has not yet announced a launch customer for the product.
(Photo above from Gogo’s FaceBook page.)