Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on October 17th, 2009

Airplane WiFi Internet from GoGo

I'm flying Delta right at the moment on a direct flight from Atlanta to Austin. While waiting to board, a woman began passing out coupons for GoGo free in-flight WiFi Internet. I'd heard about this from Matt Cutts so, eager to try it, I grabbed a coupon.

Without the coupon, This service is typically free for the first use and runs about $10/flight or $12/day thereafter. Registration was painless (thank you Safari auto-fill) and took about 2 minutes. The coupon code works (DELTATRYGOGO) and I'm online.

First stop? to find out how fast I'm connecting. I warn you that this test is only accurate if no one is using the 'net while it's running. So, in the interest of science, I grabbed the intercom and asked everyone to log off, offering a free beer if they would.

Just kidding.

I did run the test, though, and found that the speed was pretty decent, especially considering I was 30,000 feet in the air. I used the Flash-based test and connected to the server in Denver, about the closest that I could find. Latency was 533 ms. The results?

Download: 255Kbps
Upload: 94Kbps

That's about like a 3G network. It's not zippy but it's ample for email and casual web surfing. I tried to place a Skype-to-land call to my wife but, although she could hear me, her voice was garbled. I'd have to test it again to be certain that it was a GoGo problem but it seems likely that there's just not enough bandwidth to support it.

Video streaming would be completely out of the question.

Would I pay $10, though? No, probably not on this 2-hour flight. However, if I was going coast to coast or international I would buy it in a heartbeat. On shorter flights, I'd probably pay $6 or so but that doesn't seem to be an option.

Still, it's a great service and one that's sure to catch on. It's only a matter of time before some comedian starts his monologue with "Hey, what's the deal with airplane WiFi..."