I'm live from Virgin America's Beta run of their Wi-Fi service, over San Francisco, and there are a few things you should know about how its going to work when most airlines go live in 2009. And yes, I am posting this live from 15k feet over the Pacific Ocean.
1. Your last bastion of Internet Free peace is gone. Forever. You'll be forced to work on flights instead of valium napping or reading comic books, and your boss will expect you to be checking email. Time to plan a camping trip.
2. Total bandwidth is not as fast as Cable Modem, but it seems faster than slow DSL. (We were sharing 3.6Mbps down and 1.8Mbps up, which isn't bad at all, on this Virgin America test flight, and it felt this fast when benching.)
3. But bandwidth is shared between customers. Aircell's GoGo a 3GHz EVDO-Rev A related tech modded for ground to air, started crawling as soon as other passengers signed on. (I got a test result measuring 66kbps down at one point, but Ryan showed about a mbit down. )
4. You have to pay. Virgin America charges, for example $US9.95 for flights under 3 hours, and $US12.95 on flights over 3 hours.
5. You will still need to close your laptops and shut off your devices until you reach cruising altitude.
6. Most airlines, even those that are not blocking ports, are blocking known VOIP ports. For our sanity. Although I WAS able to initiate a really solid iChat video session, but they may filter this on real flights. (See Below, courtesy of Nick Bilton from the NYTimes.)
7. Although plenty of airlines will have Wi-Fi by the end of next year, I prefer Virgin America because they've got 110v AC power plugs in coach.
8. WiFi porn won't be blocked by Virgin America or American Airlines (according to a test earlier this week.) But blocking porn is silly — people can easily play porn on DVDs or predownloaded files, but people generally have refrained so there's no reason to think they'll do otherwise now.
9. Flights using Go Go service will be able to connect to a VPN.
10. You can file share with other computers on the 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi network. That's good for gaming, but also, make sure your firewall is up.
Most of this applies to Virgin and GoGo's set up, but since GoGo will be providing service for companies like Delta and AA and eventually more, much of this will apply to other airlines.