The FCC released a report yesterday detailing plans to free up 500 megahertz of spectrum, in an effort to supercharge our nation's ground-to-air mobile broadband infrastructure. The proposed spectrum would fall within the 14.0-14.5 GHz band, which is currently utilized for satellite uplinks. The FCC references an earlier Qualcomm proposal, which suggests data speeds of 300 gigabits per second with refreshed equipment operating over the new spectrum. With that bandwidth, all of the 15,000 WiFi-equipped aircraft that are estimated to be operating by 2021 would be able to offer significantly improved performance for passengers, and at a much lower cost.
Based on verbiage in the report, the FCC's proposed date of 2020 sounds ambitious -- even with the agency completing "a great deal of ongoing work," it could be a decade before we can take advantage of gigabit connections from 37,000 feet in the air. Gogo's next-gen system and ViaSat's promised satellite rollout should be hitting planes before 2013 is through, however, delivering notable improvements of their own.