SmartSky offers details on nationwide network deployment

Wondering where SmartSky’s air-to-ground inflight WiFi towers are? The company appears happy to share that information. It released a map showing the coverage footprint in response to “several requests for a coverage map to illustrate the availability of SmartSky’s inflight connectivity and the distinctive way in which it is delivered.”

While not stated explicitly by SmartSky, releasing the map almost certainly comes in response to skepticism expressed by Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne that the network was less than advertised. During Gogo’s most recent earnings call Thorne opined, “We don’t think they have nationwide coverage.

He also offered a more detailed take on where Gogo believes SmartSky is and is not active:

We would agree that they live in parts of the nation across the nation. They’re living in the Southeast, goes up a bit to Chicago; they’ve got some towers around Wichita… They’re live in Las Vegas, where they’ve tested and demonstrated several times. And they’re certainly living out in California, where they were getting ready for the JSX launch that they lost.

Whether the release of this map is sufficient to assuage Gogo’s skepticism remains to be seen. Ditto for whether the skepticism was real, or just a marketing offensive, couched as a question.

Additional questions have been raised about the range available with the SmartSky system and how many towers it would require to be built. The map suggests roughly 320 locations for the company, with just under 300 of them complete. SmartSky also explicitly notes that the beams range up to 180 miles from the tower.

For its part, Gogo expects to activate roughly 150 towers for its new Gogo5G network. Half are already provisioned.

And, of course, bringing the Gogo 5G network online depends on the outcome of the patent infringement lawsuit filed earlier this year.

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