Lyle Schofield's Technical Journal

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In Flight WiFi on Southwest

7 September, 2014 (23:18) | Services | By: Lyle

Traveling for work, and in the middle a big crunch so I spent the 8 bucks to use the in flight WiFi Southwest has as a service on most of their newer planes.  Two flights, about 5 hours in the air, so $1.60 an hour to stay connected seems acceptable.  I’ve mostly ignored paid WiFi services; its actually nice to be a big disconnected on a flight and there’s usually nothing that can’t wait a bit until I’m off the plane.

The connection experience is easy, just like a hotel.  You turn on the WiFi, get redirected to a page to select the service, put in your credit card and hope the person sitting behind you isn’t peeking over your shoulder while you enter the card number.  Southwest also uses this mechanism to distribute in-flight entertainment, skipping the murky 5 inch LCD screens other carriers place on the seat in front of you.  The video experience actually seems better when you have your own screen, but no options for those that don’t being a pad or laptop with them on a flight (or charge up their batteries enough, why no power jacks on these planes!).

The Internet experience is acceptable for some things, but not for others.  Any content heavy web surfing is very sluggish, and some streaming services are blocked.  The corporate things are annoying – through the VPN, plane WiFi, transmission to the ground somewhere, creates a lot of technology jumps for data packets.  Takes a little more than a minute to download a 1 Meg document, feels a lot like dial up Internet if you can remember those days so long ago.  Like OK bandwidth but poor latency.  Sharepoint crashes half the time when trying to edit a document.

I’m guessing over time the technology will increase capacity over time, but for now (and for me) this is an “if you have to” purchase.

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