Are bandwidth limitations serious?

Are we already seeing evidence of bandwidth limitations on today’s Wi-Fi-enabled flights? Some users say “yes”.

Check out the following iTunes preview:

It was recorded in-flight using video screen capture software. Then go to the iTunes site on your home or office computer and listen to a free song preview yourself. You will see quite a difference.

But what are other examples of the current data rate on aircraft? One industry executive claims the following:

1)    A simple MP3 song takes over 30 minutes to download
2)    Preview an HD movie trailer in flight and it will buffer (transmit) data for 41 seconds and then play for 6 seconds, buffer 41, play for 6, etc.
3)    If you want to play online poker in flight (choose ANY poker site you want), it will take over half an hour to download a few MB of setup programming

Is said industry insider right? When I tried Gogo on Virgin America’s initial launch, the service worked wonderfully. During that flight the good folks over at Gadling put Gogo through some rigorous testing – with a plane-load of Gogo users – and were quite satisfied.

With that said – will the novelty factor of in-flight Wi-Fi in the USA wear off? If it does, will people get PO’d if the bandwidth isn’t fully akin to what they are accustomed to on the ground?

Aircell could not be immediately reached for comment.

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3 Responses to Are bandwidth limitations serious?

  1. Bob August 10, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

    I’ve seen the type of bandwidth limitations described above while flying on several carriers. Gogo does seem to have more of a limitation than Row 44 and will likely get worse faster since they’ll have more aircraft outfitted. As I understand it, Aircell will require carriers to upgrade their equipment in two years to handle the load but I haven’t heard how much that upgrade will cost, have you? On the other hand, any future Row 44 upgrade will probably be through adding satellite transponders so the airlines won’t have to absorb the cost, Row 44 will.

  2. alloycowboy August 11, 2009 at 4:46 am #

    Mary, do you think they are going to get every one addicted to wifi, and then force the airlines to upgrade their equipment to meet the demand as way to recoup some of there development costs? If that is the case then it is better to be the second mouse rather then the early bird.

  3. Mary Kirby August 11, 2009 at 12:12 pm #

    I have a standing request with Aircell to discuss this and other issues. They made a rather vehement response to my post, however. Check it out if you get the chance.