Inflight connectivity provider Gogo will build a 5G cellular network for aviation, with a plan to begin offering the broadband service in 2021.

The new air-to-ground network is designed for use on business aviation aircraft, regional jets and smaller mainline airliners operating in the US and Canada, Gogo announced May 29. The company will build the 5G system on its existing infrastructure of 250 towers, using unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4 GHz range to connect with aircraft.

The network will use a proprietary modem and employ advanced beamforming technology to focus wireless signal energy. Gogo plans continue using its 3G and 4G networks, which “will provide backup to the 5G network when needed.” The company said it is committed to providing “easy upgrade paths” to 5G for existing customers.

Chicago-based Gogo contends that ground-based network technology has advantages over satellite communications, including lower cost of operation and lower latency of data transmission.

“We expect to launch Gogo 5G at the same time as the terrestrial telecommunications companies are deploying the same generation of technology on the ground—a first in the inflight connectivity industry,” Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne said.

“Gogo 5G is the next step in our technology evolution and is expected to deliver an unparalleled user experience, pairing high performance with low latency and network-wide redundancy.”

Bill Carey, bill.carey@aviationweek.com