On Virgin America's inaugural GoGo WiFi flight: this post published from 35,000 feet

So I took a little a break from working on gdgt to get on Virgin America's inaugural Aircell GoGo WiFi party flight, posting this at altitude. If you haven't already caught one of the early Aircell flights on Delta, American, or Air Canada, their now-active GoGo service provides in-flight internet. So far, as far as party planes go, this one hasn't been too raucous -- probably because everyone's been geeking out on their laptops.
Quick facts:

  • The service is a shared high-power EV-DO Rev. A connection, at 3.6Mbps downstream and 1.8Mbps upstream.

  • By April, 100% of Virgin America's flights will have GoGo service. Dayumn! All GoGo service is $10 for short flights (under 3 hours) and $13 for longer flights (over 3 hours).

  • So far I've been getting about 1Mbps down, and 200Kbps up -- pretty good considering that this is about as pinned as the system is going to get. There are only about 150 people on it right now, you know?

  • Latency is between 200-500ms, sometimes higher. Reasonable latency, though.

  • The system uses 802.11a/b/g, although it's an open AP (i.e. no encryption).

  • Speaking of which, GoGo claims they'll support VPN, so expect that to work. SSH is iffy though -- it worked for us, but they don't really want people SSH tunneling (especially to do stuff like VoIP).

  • Aircell intends to block voice and video chat to keep things less obnoxious for travelers. It's working in flight though -- people are doing iChat sessions. But part of this inaugural flight will have live YouTube streaming, so one should expect to have this cut off later.

  • BitTorrent works! It's not crazy fast, but I'm peering with about 8 nodes. I wouldn't expect this to work when the service launches.

  • GoGo has a built-in traffic shaper that keeps an eye out for those using more traffic than others. If you're consuming too much, it'll scale you back (although no one has a hard cap). If you're the only one on GoGo (say, on a red-eye at 4am) then you can go crazy, you won't be scaled back. Still, I'm sitting next to my old pal Brian Lam from Giz, and I'd wager the two of us are somehow taking up about 80% of the plane's bandwidth.

  • Virgin America isn't filtering content, so feel free to cast a glance over your shoulder and engage your browser's private mode.

Any thing else you want to know?