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Gogo shows off in-flight Wi-Fi that isn't terrible

The satellite technology promises to move streaming Netflix from the banned list to reality.

Ina Fried for Re/code

It’s a funny thing about Gogo. They brought us a great convenience most people had never had before — internet on airplanes — and they have been reviled by customers ever since.

To customers’ credit, the Wi-Fi can be slow and crash-prone, and the price of spotty service is perennially going up in an effort to try to keep demand down. With the next generation of technology, which uses satellites, Gogo hopes to change all that with in-flight internet that it says lets you do all the fun things you really wish you could do today.

“You can do what you want,” said Gogo CEO Michael Small. “You can do your Netflix.”

On Thursday, Gogo announced the first international carrier group deal for its satellite-based Wi-Fi. The deal with International Airlines Group will see Gogo’s faster technology added to 118 British Airways planes, four Aer Lingus Boeing 757s and up to 15 Iberia long-haul aircraft. The first planes will debut with the technology next year, with the full fleet by 2020.

To show off the technology, Gogo is taking reporters on a brief flight over Silicon Valley. We’re just about to take off for our test flight, but I will have more updates as we go on. Filed, of course, from Gogo’s in-flight Wi-Fi.

Update, 12:40 pm PT: Even on a fake flight, there’s a real safety video. Well, it’s a real flight. We’re just not going to anywhere.

gogo safety video

12:43 pm PT:

We’re airborne now. All I see are clouds out the window, but we are somewhere over Silicon Valley. I have Live TV streaming in one window and Netflix playing in another.

12:50 pm PT: They said to do all the things real passengers will do, so I plan to block the aisle for half the flight futzing with my luggage. I even brought my pillow!

Ina Fried for Re/code

12:55 pm PT: We’re over Bakersfield, Calif., now. Just got to go visit the cockpit, which you don’t normally get to do these days, with or without Wi-Fi. The plane is a 737-500 from 1992, for all you flight nerds out there. (Hi, Kent German.)

Gogo cockpit selfie

12:56 pm PT: I did a speed test of the Wi-Fi from my iPhone. It’s well short of the 25 megabits per second maximum the modem is capable of. I got only about 9 megabits per second downloading and a paltry 270 kilobits per second uploading — Gogo throttles this to prevent video chatting and other things most airlines don’t like.

Gogo speedtest

1:12 pm PT: Watching “Sharknado.” I wanted to watch “Airplane!” but it’s not in Netflix’s streaming catalog right now.

1:27 pm PT: Sadly, the fasten seat belt sign is already on for landing and it’s almost time to stow the electronics. For my grand finale, I streamed “Tumble Leaf” from Amazon Video on an iPad, a clip from “Rocky III” on YouTube on an HTC 10 and “Sharknado” on my laptop using Netflix. I struggled to get connected to ESPN or I would have done that too. I blame the guy next to me who has too many devices.

Ina Fried for Re/code

1:30 pm PT: As for when you can try out the faster Gogo service, it’s coming to 35 planes this year (and eventually to 600 planes). It’s also installed on a few Aeromexico planes today.

1:37 pm PT: And we’ve landed.

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