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Computer Chip Testing Delays Gogo 5G In-Flight Connectivity Launch to 2023


Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne reported an issue with the 5G computer chip testing during their quarterly earnings call on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Gogo Business Aviation)

Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne, during the second quarter earnings call on Friday, said the expected fourth quarter launch of its next-generation 5G in-flight connectivity (IFC) service could be delayed until mid-2023 due to testing related to a computer chip developed by one of their main suppliers.

Thorne said Gogo received a report of testing issues from Airspan, the company that makes the computer chip for the X3 onboard computer, on Tuesday, with the executive announcing he was preparing to announce the fourth quarter. which will be available across their entire 5G shipset for today’s earnings call. The update on the chip testing delay comes after a record-setting second quarter financial performance for Gogo with revenue increasing to $97.8 million, up 19% from the same period last year.

“The manufacturer of our 5G chip has just notified us of a new issue in the late phase of testing, which may delay ramping up to full production volumes until mid-2023,” said said Thorne on Friday.

Although caused by various factors, this is the latest computer chip delay for Gogo’s 5G network. In March 2021, for example, Thorne mentioned a delay in the launch of the service due to supply chain shortages.

A computer chip manufactured by Airspan provides processing inside Gogo’s X3 line of replaceable units, pictured here. (Image courtesy of Gogo)

Airspan is one of three key 5G technology suppliers for Gogo’s 5G connectivity. The end-to-end structure of Gogo’s 5G IFC network includes the following aircraft and ground-based elements:

  • Gogo’s Avance L5 and X3 Line Replaceable Units (LRU).
  • Cisco’s 5G cloud computing service
  • Airspan’s Air5G base station and antenna arrays
  • The first multiband RF antenna

The ground infrastructure for Gogo’s 5G network is supported by upgrades to 150 of its existing 250-tower 3G/4G network. The 5G network uses an unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4 GHz band, and Gogo has already reported connection speeds of up to 25 mbps on average in flight testing on the current network. A total of 95 towers have been upgraded so far, according to Thorne.

Each individual airborne hardware and software component of Gogo’s 5G-enabled connectivity equipment meets FAA certification. However, Airspan’s reported delay has prevented the availability of the X3 computer.

“The chip is stuck in test mode and cannot be switched to operational mode,” Thorne said. “The way these chips are built in multiple layers, the test mode touches almost every layer. They don’t know the exact source of the problem in their test mode; the worst case can be’ g a spin again.”

According to Thorne, Gogo is still in “discovery mode” for testing issues related to Airspan’s 5G computer chip. The Gogo CEO says that if the chip needs to be rebuilt, that will cause the launch of their service to disappear in the middle of 2023. If a rebuild can be avoided, the X3 computer will be available immediately. .

Despite the delay in 5G service, however, Thorne said the company is still seeing strong demand and pre-order commitments from operators who want the improved performance promised by the 5G network. – deployed by Gogo. Since the X3 box with Airspan’s computer chip is the only component of their 5G enabled equipment that is not available, some customers have already purchased antennas and other 5G-enabled LRUs that will allow them to operate on the 4G network. until the 5G service becomes available. .

Thorne also provided Gogo’s assessment of the size of the addressable market in business jets and turboprop aircraft that the company is considering as prime targets for aftermarket connectivity upgrades. This includes a total of 16,000 unconnected business and general aviation aircraft in North America, and another 13,000 aircraft currently serving other regions around the world that could be connected to the global broadband network which it launched together with EBACE’s OneWeb.



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