I’ve been skeptical of in-flight internet and High-Speed Data (HSD) since I first started hearing about it. Internet speeds like my home or office network? I had to experience it to believe it. On a recent flight, I got that experience.
Within 7 minutes after takeoff I was online with Aircell's Gogo service, which is the commercial airlines equivalent of High Speed Internet for business aviation. I checked my e-mail, tweeted, updated a website, did some research online and chatted with my husband (who, after a few moments of confusion, commented the accessibility was “very cool”). It was more than cool. It was, truly, just like being in the office.
How fast is fast? The speeds are advertised at up to 3.1 mbps. Webmail is snappy. FTP uploads and downloads are speedy. I even watched Robert Duncan, Chairman Emeritus of Duncan Aviation and pilot of Dove 1 for the Special Olympics, in an interview on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XH4XM8CWIg.
The connection did lag at times and I had been warned beforehand that the advertised speed is sometimes more of an exception than the rule (not unlike my home internet connection). The number of users, among other factors, can affect connection speeds. Connection speed analyzers aren’t necessarily accurate as the lag time (or latency) between the aircraft and the ground-based stations can skew the results. Even so, I was pleasantly surprised.
Is Aircell’s High Speed Internet for everyone? It depends on the needs of the passengers. Gogo and its High Speed Internet equivalent is only available in the United States above 10,000 feet. Some passengers may not need the faster connection speeds, and aircraft that frequently make international flights may need to consider other solutions.
After landing, I wasn’t any slower to reach for my cell phone, but I did accomplish more during my flight with in-flight internet. That productivity, in my opinion, is priceless.