For a brief bit - Skype video calls from 30,000+ feet on Southwest Air WiFi!
June 15, 2009
To my great surprise and pleasure, it worked great. (For a little while - see below.) Here's Bruce Lowekamp:
As you may or may not be able to see in the graphic, our call had been up for 3 minutes and 33 seconds when I snapped the picture.
Unfortunately, I didn't have easy access to my headset, so I couldn't really have a great conversation. The ambient background noise in the plane was really too much for my voice to be heard unless I bent down toward the microphone... and likewise even with the MacBook Pro volume up all the way it was a bit hard to hear Bruce unless I bent down toward the laptop.
And, of course, I didn't really want to annoy my fellow passengers. :-)
You can see on the right the technical stats for the call. Packet loss was surprisingly low. At the time I captured this window, I had a 3% receiving packet loss... but through much of our call that was hovering down around 0%. A roundtrip of 789ms is, of course, rather entertaining.
Sadly, though, the connectivity didn't last forever. After about maybe 30 minutes of trying this out and making video calls to different people, my Skype account went offline.
No instant messaging/chat, either. Which is exceedingly annoying.
Out in Twitter-land, Fred Posner asked Southwest if they were blocking VoIP, to which Southwest replied:
@fredposner yep...we do.
Actually, what annoys me more is Southwest blocking Skype IM. Other than the novelty today, I don't know that I really want to be making calls from the plane... although I could see the usefulness from time to time.
What I do want is the Skype IM... since I use Skype IM heavily for communication with people including my team. It seems, though, that my Skype connection is completely blocked. Which is unfortunate, given that all my other IM services seem to be working fine.
Southwest, can you please figure out how to block the Skype voice and video, but still leave us the chat?
Despite the VoIP-blocking, though, it was seriously great to be able to use my laptop and work online during the flight. Even better, on this flight the Southwest WiFi was free while they are apparently testing it out. I did a couple of speed tests from DSL Reports, naturally, and seemed to be getting around 3Mbps down and around 200-250 Kbps up. Here's one of the results:
What a crazy world we're now in... 3 Mbps downlink... on a plane!
P.S. And of course I had to snap a picture like this:
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