Recently, I’ve had some serious time aboard the American Airlines A321T – the transcontinental planes that are used between New York to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Both of the planes I flew on featured the ViaSat on-board WiFi system (compared to the Gogo or Panasonic Systems installed already on board some of the American Airlines fleet).
So how does it stack up?
ViaSAT released a map with the coverage their service offers. It uses Ka Based Satellite communication.
So at the moment, it covers mostly the USA – and the transcontinental route – which is good to say the least.
Let’s get to the crux of things – how much this is going to cost.If you’re buying in-flight, it’s US$12 for 2 hours, or US$16 for a full flight. For those with GoGo passes – you can roam with this. There is also roaming support too
Good luck – as I don’t have a peering account with Gogo, I could not test this.
So the first question I’m asked is this: show me the megabits. I did various measurements over two sessions (from JFK-SFO, SFO-JFK). I l was hitting around 14mbs download speeds with no problems.
I did some more extensive testing between SFO-JFK, with varying results:
On the laptop
Actual use and feel
Whilst Speedtests are nice and theoretical, how did it work in the real world? Well I tried a Hyperlaspe which went to Twitter and Instagram. The upload wasn’t exactly fast, but quite passable.
Working on a blog post was reasonable enough at 35,000ft – with both images and text entry via WordPress working pretty well. So well, I wrote a snapshot in the air about another airline (very meta indeed). I did make some changes to allow content to be uploaded, by ensuring the images were scaled to a different resolution than I normally use
Using Youtube was a fluid experience, with content being delivered in various qualities – put it like this, it was stable enough to watch content through. Sadly, as I don’t have a Netflix account, I couldn’t test this in the air.
Roaming from device to device worked well, with me about to switch from a phone to a laptop.
I encountered no issues on the way out, but on the way back – I got an odd message, which meant I couldn’t log back onto the phone.
Whilst it was for the last hour of the flight, it was annoying for a gate to gate test.
From the two times I’ve used it, the ViaSat Wireless service, it seems to offer a reasonable value service for $16 per flight (around £12) for trans-con connectivity (5 hour upward flights). The speed appears stable at 14mb (and probably capped) so that everyone can get reasonable speed Wi-Fi coverage through the plane.
For those looking for connectivity on-board their planes, it could be a good thing to see.
ViaSat connectivity is available on the American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 and is being installed on their Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A321 fleets.
For those used to using Air-To-Ground solutions, it’s a major step forward in terms of connectivity. For those used to Satalite based connectivity – it’s an improvement on some Ku based solutions out there in terms of raw speed (compared to the experiences of Panasonic In-flight WiFi I’ve had).
Certainly if you’ve got a long enough flight segment – its an easy purchase if you want to be connected.
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