Networking

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...

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