Recently, I took Delta from San Francisco to the midwest which was about a 4 hour flight. Conveniently, the A320 I was on had Gogo Inflight Internet. As this was the first long-ish flight I’ve been on with internet (and I had work to get done), I decided to take it for a spin. Turns out it doesn’t suck nearly as much as I thought (except for the price).
Now, keep in mind that I’ve never used airline WiFi before. I know that sounds strange coming from a true technophile such as myself, however I have a couple good reasons. The most pertinent is that my job rarely requires me to travel for business (unfortunately, though maybe that’ll change soon) and I haven’t been on vacation in about 5 years. All this means is I have no expectations out of this internet experience.
First, the numbers. I ran several speed tests which tended to average around 3 Mbps down and 256 Kbps up. As you can see from the screenshot on the left, my best speed test was 3.77 Mbps down and 0.26 Mbps up with a ping time of 172ms. In my testing, the average ping time to Hurricane Electric in Fremont, CA was ~160 ms. As the plane was moving I probably could have gotten a slightly better ping time if I had found a host that was closer.
My experience with Gogo was fairly positive. 160 ms ping time is certainly more than acceptable for most applications and the speeds were roughly equivalent to a lower end ADSL line. I had no problem getting my work done, downloading a few last minute applications/files and checking my email. Since I work in a cloud-based business, having internet is sort of crucial to getting work done.
Now, I did say “fairly” positive, so what went wrong? Well first off, my connection dropped for maybe 20-30 minutes. Long enough to make me give up and go read a book for a while. Eventually I came back and finished off what I was working on. This isn’t the end of the world and I understand that we’re talking about an internet connection to an aircraft speeding along at mach 0.78 while cruising at 35,000 ft. It is impressive to have internet at all when you think about it, however if I’m going to pay $20.99 for ~3.5 hours of internet, I would really rather it work the entire time. That is the second “problem”, $20.99 is a rather steep price for internet access. Paying $9 for a day’s internet at an airport or Starbucks back in the day used to be painful. So I will use Gogo again, however I will make sure to purchase it in advance for a significant discount.