I am in an Alaska Airlines 737-800, 38,000 feet above sea level and traveling at over 500 miles per hour. And I am connected to the Internet at broadband speeds.
Gogo Inflight Internet, the brand under which Aircell markets its in-flight Internet services, made sign-up and sign-in a two-click process.
Within seconds, I was responding to my work e-mail, updating my Facebook status with a message from the sky, and reading disclaimers about VoIP.
Connection to Skype was tenuous at best. Messaging through Skype worked with noticeable delays, and a Skype call was nearly impossible. It is unclear why Gogo’s ground-based cell towers are unable to handle Skype or VoIP. Row 44, Gogo’s overshadowed competitor, on the other hand, has no problems with VoIP.
Row 44 offers VoIP options for certain mobile handsets. Row 44 has a fundamentally different infrastructure. Instead of ground-based cell towers, Row 44 relies on satellites. That allows Row 44 to cover most of our planet, whereas Gogo is limited to the continental United States and, according to Aircell, about 100 miles beyond.
In the end, being connected to the world while in flight has been thrilling. Gone are the days when use of electronic devices could land you in a holding cell. That does make me wonder whether mobile phone use was being curtailed for no good reason.