As technology continues to evolve, CEO Michael Small says the brand is committed to maintaining its position as an industry leader.
When Gogo first opened its doors in 1991, the idea of connecting to the internet at 30,000 feet seemed impossible. But now, the brand is the main provider of inflight wifi in the U.S.
Gogo first started out as a sketch on a napkin—founder Jimmy Ray mapped out his idea for an airplane telephone system at a barbecue joint in Texas. The brand made that idea a reality in 1997, and under the name Aircell, started providing analog-based voice communications on private business planes in North America. Nearly a decade later, the company shot to the front of the emerging airline telecommunications industry when the FCC awarded it an exclusive license to be the only brand allowed to provide broadband frequencies for communication between aircraft and ground-based cellular networks.
From there, Gogo took off. The brand finished building its cellular-based Air-To-Ground network in 2008, the same year it made its debut on America Airlines and Virgin America commercial aircraft. One year later, Gogo celebrated its one-millionth use. As technology evolved so did the brand—Gogo continuously launched new programs to boost its internet connectivity speeds. Today, Gogo continues to be at the forefront of the increasingly crowded industry. And its CEO Michael Smalls says the company is still working to stay ahead of the curve.
In an interview with Fortune, Small said, “Ultimately, everything you see happening on the ground will happen in the sky. There will be all kinds of apps tailored to flying. Our texting apps is one right now. It’s essentially fiber from the sky, and any cell phone can reach any cell phone in the world. We’ll see the market with the first couple of our own. But ultimately, we’ll need an open platform where people can develop their own apps.”
Gogo’s commitment to constantly rolling out new programs is part of what sets it apart as a growing brand. Right now, the brand is focusing on its new satellite inflight internet system called 2Ku. The service’s connection is significantly faster than Gogo’s older systems, meaning it has the ability to cut back on buffering time for customers who use the service.
In the months and years to come, Small hopes to increase Gogo’s presence on commercial flights. Right now, the brand’s biggest customers are business travelers who rely on the system to send emails and stay connected to the office while in the air. But its most recent satellite developments are opening the door to a new group of consumers who want to binge watch their favorite TV show on Netflix, listen to music on Spotify or scroll through their favorite YouTube videos while they’re on a flight.
Today, more than 2,400 commercial and 6,800 business aircraft are equipped with Gogo’s services. And while there’s no telling exactly where the industry will go next, Small says the brand is ready to step up its efforts in order to maintain its position as a leader.
Small told CNBC, “Gogo is a pioneer and leader of inflight connectivity. It’s clearly going to transform the flying experience, transform aviation. I can’t imagine a world where all aircraft aren’t connected with broadband connectivity over the course of the next decade. And it’s clear to me we’re going to track competition.” He went on to say, “We’re going to have to fight hard for global market share, but we’re up to the task and ready.”