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The State of In-Flight Wi-Fi

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the cat-pictures-in-the-sky dept.

The Internet 80

CowboyRobot writes "Byte magazine gives a run-down of the current state of Internet access on airplanes. 'All of the services function in basically the same way. They provide connectivity to the public Internet via a Wi-Fi hotspot accessible from the cabin of the aircraft. This in-cabin network may also be used to provide in-flight entertainment services ranging from television network feeds to movies and canned TV shows available from an on-board media server connected to the network. In the U.S., the Internet connectivity is available when the aircraft is above 10,000 feet and is turned off during take-offs and landings. Gogo, the current market leader, provides connectivity to aircraft via a network of 250 dedicated cell towers that it has built nationwide. Fundamentally, it offers the same type of connectivity you would expect to see on a standard 3G-capable phone. The connection is limited in speed to just over 3 Mbps — and all users on the plane share this one connection.'"

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Byte still exists!? (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42291103)

That the news for me...

Re:Byte still exists!? (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292033)

Byte died in the early 90s. Bytes from the 80s were thick as your thumb and looked more like a trade journal than a magazine. Then they decided to go for the mass market, slimmed down the magazine and it's content, and became utterly irrelevant. It's a shame, there's nothing today that matches the old Byte.

Re:Byte still exists!? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#42294077)

Oh, man, I miss that magazine. Its subscription was some of the best money I ever spent.

Re:Byte still exists!? (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42294697)

You can get high res scans of old issues of Byte from this torrent [thepiratebay.se] . It's unfortunately not complete, the guy doing the scanning went AWOL. But there's a good chunk there. They're also available on archive.org if you search. Still great reading.

Re:Byte still exists!? (2)

stox (131684) | about a year and a half ago | (#42294795)

Byte died in the early 1980's, after McGraw/Hill bought them up. Before that, they were the place to go for articles on microcomputing.

Re:Byte still exists!? (4, Informative)

lseltzer (311306) | about a year and a half ago | (#42295629)

I'm Larry Seltzer, Editorial Director of BYTE [byte.com] . BYTE survived in print well into the 90's and was then bought by CMP, who stopped the print edition in 98. It existed online for a while, mostly as a subscription-based site which folded in 2009. BYTE is now owned by UBM Tech [ubm.com] , and part of the InformationWeek Business Network. Our focus is consumerization of IT, which I define as the use in business and other managed networks of products designed for consumer use. This mostly about mobile devices, and I hope the connection to in-flight Wi-Fi is clear. Incidentally, my earliest memory of BYTE was reading it in high school in the late 70's in relation to the TRS-80 Model I Level I we had. I think there was an article about Z-80 assembler.

is this an advertisement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42291155)

?its hard to tell

3Mbps shared (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42291307)

The connection is limited in speed to just over 3 Mbps — and all users on the plane share this one connection

Yikes.

Re:3Mbps shared (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292117)

Sounds like my office.

Re:3Mbps shared (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292119)

Agreed, the one time I paid for it it wasn't worth the $5 for the flight.

I would have loved to pay $20 for modem speeds for context.

They either need to charge more, so that it's less shared (and stop making it free for frequent fliers (who fill a lot of the vessel), and/or upgrade.

Also, latency was terrible when I had any connectivity at all (seconds), I assume this is a signal issue and resending to ground a lot.

Re:3Mbps shared (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42292631)

I would have loved to pay $20 for modem speeds for context.

My first modem was 330 baud. I'm sure there were modulators and demodulators aplenty involved in the slow $5 stuff you didn't like.

That said, it's looking like inflight WiFi will never be something I going to pay for except in an emergency.

Re:3Mbps shared (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year and a half ago | (#42293235)

Fair enough, I should of said reliable 14.4k with under quarter second latency.

Re:3Mbps shared (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about a year and a half ago | (#42297909)

You had 330 baud? LUXURY! I had 110 and an acoustic modem (ie, stick the phone on top of the thing).

But you try to tell the young people of today that and they won't believe you.

But, the situation is improving (4, Interesting)

GeneralSecretary (1959616) | about a year and a half ago | (#42291387)

GoGo is in the process of upgrading their networks. They are also working on switching from air-to-ground networks to satellite which will allow them to provide coverage over oceans. Newer planes are being built with WiFi in mind. Things are looking up.

Re:But, the situation is improving (3, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#42291455)

Well of course things are looking up, satellites are above planes!

Re:But, the situation is improving (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42299289)

Well of course things are looking up, satellites are above planes!

Sorry I have to ROFLMAO.

Re:But, the situation is improving (2)

lobos (88359) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292829)

Sure, but ATG-4 (the Gogo upgrade) is only 3x the speed, so you'll see ~9Mbps for the entire plane. Some international flights are indeed getting satellite service, but it will be Ku band satellite, which isn't much better. Eventually the planes will have Ka band satellite (as much as 50Mbps per plane) but that won't be live until ~2015.

Jetblue, however, will have some pretty nice satellite service. They will be using ViaSat's new Ka band satellite and service is supposed to start launching in the next couple months. And it's free. United's Continental fleet will also be getting this service as they have contracted for it through Jetblue's wholly owned LiveTV.

Re:But, the situation is improving (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42296717)

High throughput is not linked to the frequency band, you can get 80Mbps per plane in Ku too
http://www.intelsat.com/_files/resources/knowledge/whitepaper/ICSSC-High-Throughput-Ku-Band-for-Aero-Applications.pdf

in a slow and complicated way (1)

lseltzer (311306) | about a year and a half ago | (#42300831)

The article goes into this some. It's not GoGo who's switching to direct satellite operation, but ViaSat which (as far as we know) will only be on JetBlue, some time in 2013. Ironically, what got us doing this article was when one of us was flying on Virgin and the charge was $24.95 instead of the advertised $14.95. It turned out that this was one of the planes with the upgraded GoGo hardware and Virgin was charging more for Wi-Fi on those flights. This led to an internal "WTF is going on here?" memo and this story, which we hope to keep updated.

An open letter (3, Funny)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42291403)

Dear person who insists on trying to run Netflix watch instantly from inflight wifi,

STOPIT!

Sincerely,
Every other passenger

Re:An open letter (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year and a half ago | (#42291505)

Yeah damnit! You're slowing down my porn torrents!

Re:An open letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42291753)

On the other hand, 3Mbit can do decent VOIP for a bit over 3 dozen people.
Just imagine the confusion when you bring a USB-powered Skype phone on board.

Re:An open letter (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292343)

On the other hand, 3Mbit can do decent VOIP for a bit over 3 dozen people.
Just imagine the confusion when you bring a USB-powered Skype phone on board.

Bonus points if it's an old timey rotary phone, and you pick it up and say "hello operator,"

Re:An open letter (1)

PRMan (959735) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292469)

Cool, I have Vonage so I'll start bringing my home phone with me when I'm on vacation. Otherwise, how would the telemarketers and politicians know how to find me?

Re:An open letter (1)

oneiron (716313) | about a year and a half ago | (#42295761)

Why wouldn't I just use the SIP client on my android phone over wifi?

Re:An open letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42296719)

Guessing your joking
, but on a recent flight I tried Netflix and it did work fine. Shut it off after a few minutes, since I figured it wouldn't be appreciated.

Speed tests shied almost 1m down and almost 1/3 up. I thought it was good for 30k ft and shared pipe.

Re:An open letter (1)

Espectr0 (577637) | about a year and a half ago | (#42301359)

it's documented on the wifi service that streaming sites like netflix don't work, so i don't know if someone tries it will affect other users' speed.

Black Box (1)

Lisias (447563) | about a year and a half ago | (#42291771)

I wonder if some of the connection bandwidth could be used to also transmit the flight recorder's data.

Not sure, however, if it would be a good idea...

Re:Black Box (1)

dfries (466073) | about a year and a half ago | (#42310757)

Aircraft health data is is being sent for at least some aircraft air china lauds real time health monitoring/ [flightglobal.com] it doesn't specify what data link, but it's probably not everything that would be on the black box, but at least some of it gets down.

Simple solution (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42291807)

Just auction the bandwidth on the plane
As long as the rate per minute per kbps you bid is > the available bandwidth, you get it. If somoene bids for $500/minute/1kbps and asks for all 3mbps, let them take it all!

How do they do it? (2)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year and a half ago | (#42291821)

That would be a horrendous speed - 3G speeds divided between 100-300 people in the flight will make it slow to a crawl. Gogo's solution that is. Security would be bad as well, since everybody would be on a LAN in the flight.

I am curious about one thing. Previously, cellphones and other wireless devices were required to be turned off, and the only harmless electronic devices during take-off or landing were the ones that had no connectivity. So what happened that made them allow this today?

Re:How do they do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42292135)

I don't understand why they only have one 3G connection per aircraft. It seems like they should have more, but I suppose that might cause interference or something else. As for the security, you could make each connection be on its own VLAN so it cannot communicate with any other device other than the gateway.

Re:How do they do it? (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#42293357)

since you have to pay for this, most people choose not to

some of us can live without internet for a few hours. so there is no need to have more bandwidth.

and if i want to watch a movie i can just preload it on my iphone, ipad or laptop and watch it the old fashioned way without streaming it

Re:How do they do it? (1)

mufflon (634922) | about a year and a half ago | (#42300963)

They use satellite which is rather ridiculously expensive, especially compared to say 3G hardware.

Re:How do they do it? (1)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292139)

So what happened that made them allow this today?

Money!!

Re:How do they do it? (2)

SailorSpork (1080153) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292207)

Nothing changed. As always, you can turn electronics back on after a certain altitude, though you need to keep them in Airplane mode if they are cellular devices (no attempting connection to cellular is allowed at high altitudes). Most phones allow you to manually turn on WiFi while in Airplane mode to accommodate this.

Re:How do they do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42292377)

They do it pretty simply: Very, very few people actually use Gogo's service. Sure, the rich gadget wankers who need to be bragging about using an internet connection 24/7 and the people running off of loose business expense accounts will be paying through the nose for the service (seriously, you can pay more for internet access on one cross-continent flight than what you pay every month for home internet service), but on most planes, that's a very small amount of people. Most people I've seen on planes are either sleeping, reading (either eBook or physical), playing offline smartphone/tablet games, or doing work that doesn't require an internet connection. I mean, besides the one jittery ADHD asshole on each flight who can't understand how all these "sheep" put up with staying still for a few hours, but hey.

So, end result, few people use it, so 3G speeds shared among the entire cabin works nicely for the few who need it. And quite frankly, that sort of connectivity should be an emergency-only sort of thing at those prices, so just sit back, chill, and wait for a few hours, you'll get your omnipresent internet connection back soon enough.

Re:How do they do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42292567)

very few?

what do you suppose about entire months when gogo is free?

hint: a lot of people use it during that time.

Re:How do they do it? (1)

mcrbids (148650) | about a year and a half ago | (#42294617)

I've used the inflight wifi numerous times, and while latency is what you'd expect on a satellite connection, the bandwidth was decent and usable. For me, it's a pretty simple equation: if I'm in a mood to work, will the work I perform be worth significantly more than the cost of the wifi? In most cases, it is.

Re:How do they do it? (1)

SuperQ (431) | about a year and a half ago | (#42296993)

It's not a satellite. It's mostly a set of EVDO towers pointed/tuned for aircraft not ground-based cell phone users. Although it looks like they might use satellite in the future to cover ocean travel.

The latency has been pretty good for the most part, on par with EVDO on the ground.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gogo_Inflight_Internet [wikipedia.org]

Re:How do they do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42302267)

Its not that expensive. Right now, for the holiday special, you can get a 3 pack of 24h passes for 19.95. That's less than $7 per trip. I use it on 2.5h flights, but that will cover 6h cross country trips too. If you travel a lot, a monthly pass is only like $35 or so. I don't know where you get your prices from, 2001? I do not choose GoGO every time, but sometimes, if I can get a nice discount, I do. It's nice to be able to say do last minute Christmas shopping, text your family, text the people who are going to be picking you up from the airport, keeping them up to date on arrival time, do emails, play on facebook, whatever. That's all worth the $7 to me, that's the price of just one drink. I've done my taxes while on the airplane before. That's worth something to me. That means I didn't have to waste time on the ground doing them. If you already paid $300 for the plane ticket, $40 for lunch and drinks at the airport, $20 for checked luggage fee, $10 in candy and treats at the airport, $3 for vitamin water, plus who knows what you spent on subway tickets, parking, taxis, limos, etc, what's another $7 for GoGo?

Re:How do they do it? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292385)

Cellphones must be off because of FCC, not FAA, rules, so that didn't change. The devices must still be turned off during takeoff and landing, so that didn't change either. And presumably this is only available on planes that have been certified for it, so that is a change.

Re:How do they do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42293041)

i know that I have forgotten to turn my to airport mode a couple of times, and that high and going that fast it might pick up connection to a cell tower for only a couple secs at most. Best luck I have had, was turning it on during descent to get my mail and texts coming in early.

Re:How do they do it? (1)

Peter Simpson (112887) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292569)

Money. I don't know for sure, but I'd guess Gogo looked at the 100+ people in the cabin, multiplied by $19.95 (or whatever exhorbitant amount they charge for your share of the straw) and lobbied FAA. As an (in)famous senator once said, "Money talks and bullsh*t walks."

Re:How do they do it? (1)

KingMotley (944240) | about a year and a half ago | (#42294131)

Not all airlines charge money for inflight WiFi.

Re:How do they do it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42293297)

What happened? They are finally admitting what everyone has known for decades- using cell phones and other electronics in flight will not crash the plane.

Re:How do they do it? (1)

Bo'Bob'O (95398) | about a year and a half ago | (#42293587)

IANAAEE (I am not an aeronautical EE?) but from my understanding, the FAA requires stringent testing of their equipment before it's allowed to be used below 10,000, where above, after takeoff and landing it is a bit more lax, on top of slow rule changes by the FAA such as allowing wi-fi to be used (which was likely the result of some lobbying by the industry). Most consumer electronics manufacturers don't want to bother with such testing for under 10k feet use, and even if they did airlines don't want to have to try to determine which are approved and which are not, so just have a blanket 'no electronic devices' policy. Gogo doesn't operate below 10k feet for one, but also, they do go through all that testing that allows them to operate in an aviation environment (they used to be aircell, which made inflight phones and such).

As for bandwidth, the fact of the mater is that domestic flights just are not that long (Gogo only covers domestic flights). Most people I have noticed don't feel inclined to pay $10 for a few hours of internet when they can just read a book, do a little off-line work, watch a movie, etc. That only leaves the hand full of people with an actual need, so it's just good old fashioned supply and demand. I fly between once and 4 times a month depending on work, and have only had to use it once, the speed was fine, certainly enough for the emails I need to do, but also for just browsing once I was done with work.

Security is of course as bad as any other public wi-fi (not very) so use a vpn or whatever usual security you would use.

Re:How do they do it? (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year and a half ago | (#42294139)

Security would be bad as well, since everybody would be on a LAN in the flight.

Hmm.. that could provide more hours of entertainment than actually streaming a movie...

Re:How do they do it? (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year and a half ago | (#42296331)

I've used gogo on Southwest a few times. It worked fine for email, text chat, and web browsing. It warns you before you connect that high bandwidth applications won't work and some are blocked outright. Security is the same as any access point in a public place - if you care, use end-to-end encryption.

Re:How do they do it? (1)

colinnwn (677715) | about a year and a half ago | (#42311619)

You haven't used GoGo on Southwest, they use Row44 satellite. Maybe you've used GoGo on AirTran their wholly owned subsidiary?

Re:How do they do it? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about a year and a half ago | (#42298053)

Previously, cellphones and other wireless devices were required to be turned off, and the only harmless electronic devices during take-off or landing were the ones that had no connectivity

FTA:

In the U.S., the Internet connectivity is available when the aircraft is above 10,000 feet and is turned off during take-offs and landings.

And, if I remember correctly, all electronic devices should be turned off. Not just ones with radios.

Re:How do they do it? (1)

leaen (987954) | about a year and a half ago | (#42300157)

There exists a conspiracy theory that phones were forbidden to monetize in-plane calls for 10$ per minute.

Who needs WiFi? (1)

systemidx (2708649) | about a year and a half ago | (#42291941)

When you have emulators?

Any kind of cross-country (or rather anywhere) flight and I break out my cheap ass laptop and open up ZSNES.

I highly doubt that any of these planes utilize QoS properly anyway. So the second anyone uploads a file or attempts to sync their e-mail, the entire connection comes to a screeching halt.


Sometimes people should just take the x hour ride as a chance to relax and catch up on your sleep/reading/video game time. Lord knows that the workaholic middle class could use it.

Re:Who needs WiFi? (1)

AnotherAnonymousUser (972204) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292193)

How is a Super Nintendo emulator in any way comparable to WiFi when they're looking for a way to stay connected to the internet while they're traveling? I'm glad you can so easily be amused by your foresight to entertain yourself in such a lightweight manner, but for some people there's business to do, people to contact, emails to write, travel arrangements to make, and countless other tasks that someone would want and need internet for.

Re:Who needs WiFi? (3, Funny)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292365)

How is a Super Nintendo emulator in any way comparable to WiFi when they're looking for a way to stay connected to the internet while they're traveling? I'm glad you can so easily be amused by your foresight to entertain yourself in such a lightweight manner, but for some people there's business to do, people to contact, emails to write, travel arrangements to make, and countless other tasks that someone would want and need internet for.

Hit up up down down left right left right b a select start and you get full broadband access from any SNES emulator.

Re:Who needs WiFi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42294075)

I think you get 30 free Nintendo games if you do that

Re:Who needs WiFi? (1)

systemidx (2708649) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292543)

My entire point was that BECAUSE this access exists, people find shit that they "HAVE" to do.

Your world will not end if you are cut off from the Internet for a few hours.
If you can't get that stuff done before you get on a plane, then you probably have more issues with time management than anything else.

Re:Who needs WiFi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42302425)

I don't need it, but I like it. It's convenient and lets you make better use of your time. This time of year, I need to do Christmas shopping online. I don't like to start it until the day I fly out for vacation, using Amazon Prime to get presents delivered in time. Two hours of online shopping on the plane when I am alone, means two hours less of online shopping on the ground when I have my family. Or let's say you have some internet chores to do, like paying bills. Would you rather pay your bills on the ground when you have millions of other things you could be doing, or paying your bills on the plane where your options are limited? I could fill up plane time with useless activities like napping or reading magazines I don't really need to read. Sometimes I do choose that option. But, I prefer to fill up plane time with productive activities, because that lets me enjoy my vacation time on the ground that much more. If I can make use of special offers to get the internet price to under $8, it's worth it. One time I was able to get 4 trips, 5 flights worth, of GoGo, for only $24.95. That was a $10 off your first month of a monthly pass, and having 2 round trips scheduled in the same month. If I was going on 3 or 4 roundtips in that month, it still would have been only $24.95.

Re:Who needs WiFi? effectively Nobody (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42297825)

Perhaps "BUSINESS people" could (do note the capital letters!):
1.) lighten up

2.) use the gift of offline time to reflect on something other than the incessant persuit of the Almighty Buck.

3.) Accept that the problems and opportunities that existed when they left the ground will still be there when they land.

4.) Review the sibling post that references Time Management issues.

"Business" certainly has significance ( I enjoy comfortable amounts of gelt as well as the next guy!) but they are not All Important!

Flame On!

Re:Who needs WiFi? (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292473)

A lack of network access is a sure fire way to ensure you pick a game that's not reasonably completable without a faq. So many games during the NES and SNES era just didn't give you enough information, so you'd have to buy the guide or subscribe to Nintendo Power. These days it's GameFaqs.

Yes, it's cheating. But I play games to have fun, and looking around for hours and hours without making progress is no fun at all. I do always give myself a couple hours to really make sure I'm stuck.

Re:Who needs WiFi? (1)

systemidx (2708649) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292679)

A lack of network access is a sure fire way to ensure you pick a game that's not reasonably completable without a faq. So many games during the NES and SNES era just didn't give you enough information, so you'd have to buy the guide or subscribe to Nintendo Power. These days it's GameFaqs.

Yes, it's cheating. But I play games to have fun, and looking around for hours and hours without making progress is no fun at all. I do always give myself a couple hours to really make sure I'm stuck.

I would agree with that for most of the NES games that required thought, but most SNES games could be completed without them. Sure, you may not have gotten all of the special easter eggs and whatnot (and yes - there ARE some outliers that are baffling without some sort of guide -- the latter Lufia 2 puzzles used to piss me off).

Re:Who needs WiFi? (1)

darkstar949 (697933) | about a year and a half ago | (#42293205)

If the recent Southwest flight I was on is any indication then they are actually doing a fairly good job with the QoS as there appeared to be quite a few people on the plane using the service. The cost was also fairly reasonable, $5 per device for the entire day so if you have a couple connections to make then you don't keep getting hit for the cost. However, based upon their website [southwest.com] they are using satellite based services instead of ground based so they might have a more advanced network.

They did say they blocked streaming video though so that might be part of the reason the bandwidth was decent.

Re:Who needs WiFi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42296933)

Sometimes people should just take the x hour ride as a chance to relax and catch up on your sleep/reading/video game time

What people should do is realize that they are not competent to determine what someone else "should" be doing with their time on a plane if it isn't hurting anyone.

Re:Who needs WiFi? (1)

adolf (21054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42298283)

I highly doubt that any of these planes utilize QoS properly anyway. So the second anyone uploads a file or attempts to sync their e-mail, the entire connection comes to a screeching halt.

Because nobody has ever uploaded anything or sync'd their inbox on a shared ~3Mbps connection with no QoS.

Re:Who needs WiFi? (1)

Incadenza (560402) | about a year and a half ago | (#42300701)

Sometimes people should just take the x hour ride as a chance to relax and catch up on your sleep/reading/video game time. Lord knows that the workaholic middle class could use it.

The last time I flew transatlantic I was quite happy with my €10 T-mobile Wi-Fi. Allowed me to check and correct the documents that my co-workers created (and that I brought along on the laptop), save PDF copies in Dropbox and mail links to the files to the client. It all went fast enough for me, and the big plus was that I could spend the next morning sleeping my jet lag off instead of trying to figure out the hotels WiFi (which, in my experience, are in the same QoS league as airline WiFi).
Nothing to do with being a workaholic, only with being efficient.

Yes (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292115)

and please pay the stewardess $19.95 for the password!

They priced themselves to not existing soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42292237)

I fly all the time and have used the in flight wifi, its ok I suppose. But the cost is just too high. This is exactly what happened to the older in flight phone service, which never took off because who really wants to pay that much for a phone call.

The in Flight WiFi is price higher than high priced HSIA at a hotel. Who really needs to pay that much for a 2 to 4 hours of internet access that is barely able to do email or web browse. The airline that just contracts this service and offers it for free to passengers might do ok. Most people who walk into airports, starbucks or anywhere else expect a basic level of internet access for free. So the airline adds a dollar to the price of every ticket and then gives away the internet, that would make it work.

Re:They priced themselves to not existing soon (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292837)

It is not priced too high, it is priced where they want it. At those speeds, only a very few people are going to be able to use it effectively anyway, so price it high so that it makes people think about whether or not they REALLY need to use it. If it was priced low a whole bunch of people would try using it, they would have a very bad experience with it, and that would kill the service for good.

Same thing with the phones. They don't want a cabin full of people pissed off at all the idoits jabbering away on the phone for the entire flight, so they price it high enough that if you REALLY need to make a call you will make it short and sweet. And everyone else can just wait until they land.

interesting setup (4, Interesting)

datapharmer (1099455) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292393)

The setup of these systems is actually rather interesting from a FOSS perspective. They appear to run a redhat derivative and squid and use some interesting tricks to control access to the network. I figure the squid is probably caching locally on the plane to lower the bandwidth consumption, but haven't really invetigated too far. The network routing is more interesting: If you hard code the DNS they will tamper with the route and either null route you or redirect to their sign-up page. But there are some exceptions, such as google for example: if you force https you can access google and related results just fine, but attempting to access gmail (even via mail.google.com) will result in a timeout even over https. You can also access a few sites for free such as amazon. Since you can hard-code the related IP addresses for google or amazon, it has been theorized that you could setup a proxy via google's servers or amazon's servers and get out that way by directing all lookups to that IP address from your hosts file or equivalent. When authenticating directly they appear to use ARP records to determine who is restricted and who isn't, so arp or mac spoofing would probably allow a non-paying customer to use a paying customer's credentials (albeit at the expense of probably making both connections pretty intolerable). The routing is most likely handled within the plane after a global sign-in is performed, but I haven't confirmed this.

Re:interesting setup (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42295779)

...so arp or mac spoofing would probably allow a non-paying customer to use a paying customer's credentials (albeit at the expense of probably making both connections pretty intolerable).

That's how I do it. After I gather a list of active MAC/IP addresses on the network via a quick `nmap -sP` on the local subnet, I have a script that iterates through the list, spoofs my MAC address, statics the associated IP address, sets the DNS servers and gateway manually, and tests via wget for an active connection. Eventually it gets through once it's found a MAC/IP combo of somebody that's already purchased a connection.

Interestingly enough, the connection is quite stable...I'm not sure how it is for my peer though.

This method works at most Wi-Fi hotspots and hotels.

First World Problems (4, Funny)

Phasma Felis (582975) | about a year and a half ago | (#42292445)

"My access to global information networks from a pocket-sized computer while flying miles above the earth is so slow that I can only watch pornography in standard definition!"

Free-ish wifi on the plane (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42292763)

My phone and tablet (Android) were able to get gmail and Google Maps data for free on my last round of flights a month ago. I was able to "chat by email" with my wife.

in other words, 0 Mbps (1)

swschrad (312009) | about a year and a half ago | (#42294069)

you can perhaps view one tweet per flight. sounds like the peanuts, pillow, blankets, and complimentary baggage services.

Can't use SKYPE / videoconferencing either (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42294239)

I went ahead & tried GoGo on a flight recently (about a month ago). It worked surprisingly well until I tried to use SKYPE and/or Google Hangout (videoconferencing) ... those ports are apparently blocked. No huge deal, I just wanted to be able to say that I'd done a videoconference while in flight.

Internet on a plane is awesome! (1)

TheSync (5291) | about a year and a half ago | (#42294805)

All I can say is that Internet access on a plane (even with limited speed) is awesome!!!! It completely changes how I view air travel as I can still get work done.

Leased Tower Space (4, Informative)

Princeofcups (150855) | about a year and a half ago | (#42295111)

"a network of 250 dedicated cell towers that it has built nationwide"

I worked on this project for a time, and this might be a minor point, but they do not have dedicated cell towers. Most of their antennas are on towers that are owned by third parties. It's much easier to lease space on someone else's tower than to have to deal with the politics and cost of erecting your own.

Re:Leased Tower Space (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42300285)

It's much easier to lease space on someone else's tower than to have to deal with the politics and cost of erecting your own.

So, it's like watching porn.

mod 0p (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42295135)

Sniff sniff (1)

Snotnose (212196) | about a year and a half ago | (#42296655)

Any kind of encryption? Or would running wireshark for the flight give lots of interesting info?

It's nice when it works (1)

Vrtigo1 (1303147) | about a year and a half ago | (#42310569)

I recently flew cross country on a business trip. I flew American Airlines and had two flights out and two flights back. I purchased the daily pass on the first flight out and it worked fine for e-mail, vpn, remote desktop, etc. Unfortunately, even though all of the flights said they were wifi enabled (and the crew mentioned the wifi availability on all four flights), the first flight was the only one during which I could see the GoGo SSID. So, I feel kind of ripped off because I purchased the daily pass assuming I could use it on both flights that day but only got to use it on the first flight. Apparently there are some service issues which mean that even though the flight says it has wifi available, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's working.
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