Wi-Fi

Travel with Gogo while you fly? Maybe.

Scott Lowe talks about his experience using the GoGo Wi-Fi service available on some Delta flights.

I do a fair bit of traveling and I do more than a fair bit of working.  Lately, both have been happening with increasing frequency, so I try to find "in between" time to squeeze in some items so that I can relax a bit when it makes sense.  Although flying has become an exercise in frustration, the time on the plane can be spent doing something productive.  Today - right now, in fact - I'm flying Delta on what will be a long day and decided that I'd catch up on a few things by using the GoGo Wi-Fi service available on some Delta flights.  For some reason that I can't fathom, the airline will allow me to use my laptop with the Wi-Fi network, but heaven help me if I pull out my iPhone to perform similar functions!  So, I'm relegated to my laptop, which is fine by me... or so I thought.  Read on.

Each seat on my flight has above it a sticker proudly stating "Wi-Fi Onboard" and my laptop - a MacBook Air - quickly identified the fact that a Wi-Fi network - named gogoinflight - was available.  Once I connected to this in-flight network, I fired up Firefox and went on my merry way.  I was immediately connected to GoGo's options page where I could choose from three payment options:

  • $4.95 for service for this flight (under 1.5 hours)
  • $9.95 for service for this flight (1.5 to 3 hours)
  • $12.95 for service for this flight (more than 3 hours)
  • $12.95 for unlimited access for a 24-hour period
  • $19.95 for a 30-day pass for unlimited usage on a single airline
  • $29.95 per month for unlimited usage on a single airline
  • $39.95 per month for unlimited usage on any participating airline

The company also provides plans for mobile devices.

I ran through the checkout process, which required me to provide a credit card number and create an account on the company's site.  Pretty standard stuff.

Next up, with the payment out of the way, I eagerly fired up a new browser window and decided to peruse TechRepublic.  I was greeted with the page you see in Figure A.

Figure A

Things aren't looking so good

I took a number of what I hoped would be corrective actions, including:

  • Closing down and restarting Firefox
  • Trying the action in Safari
  • Disabling and re-enabling the wireless adapter in my laptop
  • Rebooting

All of it was for naught.  Fortunately, I was able to browse back to the payment page - which, of course, never had any troubles - and discovered a support link.  In an effort to solve this problem and go on my way, I contacted support using the live chat service available on this support link.  I started this support adventure as "number 10 in the queue" and watched the number drop one by one as I waited my turn.  My total wait was pretty reasonable, actually - maybe five to ten minutes.  When I got to number two in the queue, I got impatient and decided to try to get to TechRepublic again.

Viola!  Success!

Although I was able to browse to my intended destination, I still went through the rest of the support process to ask what happened.  The tech on the other end of the connection informed me that they had just pushed a fix to their network that corrected the problem, so it was nothing on my end.  Although I had to wait a bit, the support seemed reasonable.  I expect that there was a wait because I doubt that I was the only person experiencing problems.

By this point, my flight's remaining time was limited, so I decided to devote the rest of my time to testing the performance.  I opened up browsing session to a couple of sites, including my Outlook Web App site and it was pretty snappy.  I certainly had no complaints with regard to general browsing.

I also ran some speed tests from a couple of different locations with the following results:

  • Latency: 149 ms - 353 ms. These numbers really aren't that great but certainly fine for the intended use (browsing, email, Twitter, etc.) - unless you're trying to do something real-time such as Skype.
  • Download speed: 1.4 Mb - 1.5 Mb down. Again, adequate for most typical browsing needs, but certainly not speedy for multimedia. Gogo does not promise that promise that multimedia applications will work well, either.
  • Upload speed: 0.18 Mb - 0.29 Mb up. Pretty abysmal.

Ok, I wasn't very generous in my assessment of the speeds so now let me put it into perspective.  I was flying at 30,000 feet at hundreds of miles per hour.  Gogo was keeping up, connecting the service to new ground-based towers as necessary.  So, while these values would be truly awful for terrestrial service, for this, I was perfectly happy.

Gogo isn't available on all flights on all airlines.  The following airlines have flights that participate in the service:

  • Air Canada
  • AirTran
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Delta
  • Frontier
  • United
  • US Airways
  • Virgin America

Summary

Would I use Gogo again?  Yes.  For what I needed, it was perfect (ok, would have been perfect had the service not experienced a failure... perhaps on the next leg of today's trip, I'll find out!).  I would also recommend the service to other people at my place of employment if they need to travel.  I often test these kinds of services to serve two purposes: 1) Be able to share my experiences with the TechRepublic community; 2) Be able to answer the inevitable questions that arise at work as people traverse the globe.

My main concern with the service is the price. It's a bit expensive and I truly don't understand the $19.95 30-day plan as opposed to the $29.95 monthly plan.  I understand that the latter plan will auto-renew, but I'm stumped about why the non-renewing 30-day only plan would be less expensive.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

2 comments
Greybeard770
Greybeard770

That???s why we don???t recommend satellite for Internet communication. There is no doubt only one access point communicating with the satellite. Wireless performance degrades as more people share the AP. It is definitely better than nothing if you can???t wait until you get on the ground. I too was curious about the 30 day vs. monthly pricing. Some hotels charge similar prices for a day of wireless use.

ppointer
ppointer

On about one flight out of every four, my RSS reader fails. Support always says the problem lies with my equipment. Bunk. The problem lies with their QA department. On the positive side, the access provided by GoGo definitely makes productive use of what would otherwise be wasted time.

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