Wifi in the Air

A few months ago, I got to try out WiFi aboard an airplane. For those of us who travel on the airlines, it used to be that for a few hours, we'd be completely out of touch, not connected.  No more!  On a flight from Dallas to Atlantaa while back, the aircraft had onboard WiFi installed. I HAD to try it. So for $9.99 to the "Gogo Service", here's what I learned.

In airplanes, the WiFi only works while the aircraft is in the air. We had a ground delay, and it did NOT work while we were on the ground.

  • The transfer rate up and down is about 300kbits/second. Not fast by any means (your typical home broadband connection is over twice that speed), but it worked fine for email and basic web browsing.
  • The Skype WiFi phone application access were thankfully turned off on this aircraft. There have been a few reports of users being able to make WiFi based phone calls from aircraft. Frankly, the last thing I want to do is listen to one-half of a phone conversation while tied to an airline seat.
  • I happened to be using my new iPad at the time.  It's a great device to use on an airplane, particularly in a coach seat. Battery life is excellent and it's much smaller than a laptop. There was no problem finding a comfortable viewing position for the iPad.

Yes - WiFi works onboard aircraft that have the service. The airlines are installing WiFi transceivers in their aircraft as quickly as they can to gain extra revenue.  But, one of the last bastions of solitude and relative disconnect from the rest of the world is gone. I, for one, will miss the occasional opportunity NOT to be connected.

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