Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Surfing the Internet at 30,000 ft

So I am currently on a cross continent flight and using in-flight wifi to post this blog.  This is the first time I have used in-flight wifi so I thought I'd post some thoughts about this new service.  I am currently crammed into boxcar class so I blame any typos on my current cattle like status.

  Just as a reference, I am on a US Airways Airbus 321 using GoGo as a provider.

  • The cost is $12.95, which gives access for the entire flight, but only the one flight.  The cost is steep and doesn't seem worth it, except to test it.  Prices for mobile devices are $7.95 for this flight.  Once assumes that the cost varies on the length of the flight.  
  • You can use multiple laptops on the same flight for the same GoGo account, but only one at a time.  You can also use multiple mobile devices on the same flight, but again only one at a time.  The mobile and laptop plans are separate so you cannot use the laptop account on a mobile device. 
  • I seem to have full web access, and can SSH into machines on the Internet.  Gmail chat  via the web interface doesn't work, but it is not clear if that is blocked by the network or a technical glitch.  
  • Bandwidth tests show the connections is 500 to 600 Kbps down, and 130Kbps up.  Not bad considering I am 30,000ft in the air and moving at 600MPH.
  • Ping tests show that network latency varies from 400ms to 800ms.  For the non-geeks reading this that means it can take almost a second to send a request from my computer to other machines on the internet (in this case google.com), and get a response.  As a comparison my home network latency to google.com is 60ms on average, so latency is about 10x slower in-flight.   
  • Youtube works, but videos tend to lag (not a surprise given the network situation described above).
Thats it for now.  I'll update this blog should I have any more thoughts to pass along about in-flight wifi.