Live Blogging from the Sky: Testing American Airlines’ Gogo Wi-Fi
I am officially online in the sky. Boy, does it feel good. As soon as I got the go ahead from the American Airlines’ flight attendants with the “use of electronic devices are now permitted” announcement, I fired up my Lenovo x200. Below are updates from my experience of using Aircell’s Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi service on an American Airlines from San Fransisco to New York’s JFK. The newest updates are on bottom and are listed in EST time. The video is at the very bottom. 7:15 p.m: Vista’s Network Center is telling me that there are “available networks.” Listed is a network with SSID “gogoinflight.” I am connected to the network in less than 30 seconds. I have a full signal! When I fire up Firefox 3 I am greeted by Gogo/American Airlines’ landing page. Time to go through the registration and purchase process. They want my e-mail and credit card number. The stewardess comes by and wants to sell me dinner ($10 for a sandwich on this airline!) No, I will buy the Wi-Fi. My card was approved and I am brought to a “successful connection” page. It also launches a Gogo status window which updates with the flight number and fun facts about Gogo. 7:25 p.m.: I am logged into my Gmail and my work e-mail account which is powered by Google. I am having no problem chatting with Mr. Mark Spoonauer and my friend, Sascha, over Skype. Let’s give a Skype call a try… 7: 35 p.m: Calling Sascha on Skype doesn’t exactly work since Aircell is blocking VoIP calls. When I start the call, I get the Skype rings and hear him say hi. He says he can hear me but then the call is dropped. This happens 3 times. I am going to try Sightspeed later to see if I can get a voice or video call going. 7:45 p.m.: Getting into my usual work routine by setting up my sites: including Pandora, Gmail, Meebo, Engadget, and Facebook. My Third Eye Blind Pandora station (yes, I loved and still love the band!) sounds awesome. No skips. Obviously, WordPress is already up and running. 7:49 p.m.: Ok people are waiting for the speeds. The nice Gogo woman (yes, they have Gogo representatives on the plane to assist those less savvy) just checked in on me. She also gave me an instruction sheet for connecting a PDA to the service. 8:03 p.m.: Working on some uplink and downlink tests. Stay tuned… 8:07 p.m.: My friends are making fun of me on AIM for live blogging from the airplane. Turns out they are the real losers. 8:13 p.m.: The woman next to me ordered a Bloody Mary. They are starting the feature film- Made of Honor. Thank heavens for in-flight Wi-Fi and Hulu.com! 8:20 p.m.: Streaming an episode of Family Guy over Hulu. There were a few pauses and skips during the theme song, but it really picked up. I am watching Brian and Quagmire go to the Barry Manilow concert. 8:28 p.m.: Chatting with a friend of mine who is taking the bus home from work. His bus has Wi-Fi, but his connection keeps going in and out. Not mine! 8:45 p.m.: I have been running a few speed tests. On Speedtest.net the network turned in 1613 kb/s on the downlink and 297 kb/s on the uplink. Not to shabby.
Of course, as you can tell from my real world testing the connection is really all you could ask for. I am streaming video, while chatting and checking my e-mail without any hiccups. 9:34 p.m: Just recorded some video of some Web surfing. Uploading the 83 MB file now to an FTP. Will let you know how long that takes. Ok FTP is not working, trying YouTube now. 10:03 p.m.: My battery is starting to die. I need one of those iGo chargers. Still I have gotten through 4 hours of the flight on this Lenovo x200′s extended battery. 10:12 p.m.: I am attempting a video call with Sascha over SightSpeed. Crossing my fingers… 10:29 p.m.: Same issues with Sightspeed. I start the call and the video launches but then after about 10 seconds it goes black. Still caught this good shot of the short call… 10:45 p.m.: It turns out there is a way to crack the VoIP calling restriction in the air. VoIP guru, Andy Abramson of VoIP Watch just had to speak to me on the phone (even though I had just seen him before taking off in San Fran). Since calling over Sightspeed or Skype didn’t work we tried a Flash based solution through Phweet (you use your Twitter account to sign in). Andy sent me an invite to talk and there he was. We had a 5 minute phone convo for free (beat that MagicJack!). He sounded great and there was no choppiness on his end, I came through a bit delayed. Andy does a better job explaining why this type of call is able to work over the Gogo network. 10:50 p.m.: I have also been chatting with AirCell CEO Jack Blumenstein on Skype for most of the flight. As for the the restriction on VoIP he says, “Fundamentally it is a reaction to widespread passenger aversion to the idea of many people talking loudly on flights (as we’ve all often experienced before take-off or while landing).” I couldn’t agree more. I was getting stares right and left in the 5 minutes I was talking to Andy and I don’t blame the passengers of American Airlines at all. Granted I was talking really loudly without a headset, but loud talkers on a plane (and in general) are annoying. The poor girl next to me was trying to sleep. Other than the call, I haven’t bothered her once. Though, she thinks I am a total geek. 10:59 p.m: I am losing juice quickly here. I think you guys get the point: Aircell’s Gogo works. No hang ups for the Cloud computer and absolutely no dropped connections. That is a lot more than I can say about the typical Wi-Fi hotspot. 11:00 p.m.: Captain says we are landing in 5 minutes. Wow, that was the quickest 5 hour flight of my life. Update: Here’s the video of the Wi-Fi in action.