Protocol Snow

Southwest airline Wi-Fi at 30,000 feet

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On my flight home to Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to ride a plane that was equipped with the in-flight Wi-Fi service Southwest is beta-testing. The Wi-Fi is switched on upon reaching cruising altitude at 30,000 feet, and then the fun begins. This was my connecting flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles, so I only had about half an hour to test out the service. Screencaps below with some basic speed tests. Overall I was impressed (click on pictures for larger images).

Opening home page

Wireless network

When I first entered the plane, I noticed a couple Wi-Fi stickers but I didn’t pay them any attention since I thought they were advertising Wi-Fi in the terminal. It wasn’t until shortly before taking off that the flight attendant announced we could test out their Wi-Fi service on the plane. I had no idea Southwest had plans for in-flight Internet so I was very pleasantly surprised. I immediately grabbed my laptop once they turned on the switch, but my fellow flight companions didn’t seem as enthusiastic.

Speed test

Webpages loaded briskly, and I did a SpeedTest to get quantitative data. I came upon a funny quandary: which city server location should I pick for most accurate results? The site recommended a server in Kansas for some reason, even though at that point I was flying over Arizona/California. I ran the test several times with a San Diego server and got the results shown above, with download hovering around the 2.80 to 2.90 Mb/s range. Trying out the Kansas server did indeed get me the best speed at about 3.10 Mb/s.

Bittorrent Test

Next I tried a random torrent from Dattebayo fansubs, which I knew would have a ton of seeders. ~200 kB/s was the upper limit of the download speed, not too shabby.

I only had enough time to check my email, do the tests, and write a couple tweets before we started to descend and I had to turn off my laptop. Since this service is still in beta, it was offered free for our use. According to this article, it seems like once the Wi-Fi launches officially, it’ll cost about $10 a day. I doubt I’ll ever be that desperate for in-flight Internet use to pay for it, but it’s reassuring to know that there’s a quality service available should I ever need it.

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Written by Protocol Snow

June 16th, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous,Travel