Here’s what wifi is like on Southwest

Southwest Landing Page

I’m 35,000 feet in the air, on a Southwest flight to Philadelphia, and I paid $8 for wifi access. To say it is underpowered is an understatement, but there is a surprising story – with a twist – to go along with that. Take a look at the images below, and marvel at the sub 2.0 speeds and, if you can believe it, at one point 0.0 upload speeds! I’ve never seen that before, and that was after I switched to a closer test server.

You read that right

You read that right

You read that one right, too

You read that one right, too

I pinged Google, which is 8.8.8.8, and had some pretty sorry pings there also. I had to ping the loopback just to be sure everything was copacetic on my own end.

Pinging Google from Southwest

Pinging Google from Southwest

What I find most interesting about all of this is that when I connected to my Plex server back home, I was able to stream Law and Order just fine. No skips, buffering, nothing. Sound lined up perfectly, video played very smoothly.

Law & Order streaming off Plex

Law & Order streaming off Plex

I figured that was because the file size of each episode is so small, approximately 350MB. So you can imagine my surprise when even 35GB Blu-Ray rips played perfectly as well, as seen below with a screenshot of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter streaming from my server at home to my laptop on this airplane.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I don’t know if that’s more a comment on the quality of my at-home Internet service, the server Plex runs on, or what. For such a crap speedtest, Plex served up video swimmingly.

What I consider to be even more amazing is that I was able to connect to vanilla World of Warcraft server Elysium with no troubles either. WoW has always been very efficient in terms of what happens at the client side versus what happens at the server side, but this is a private server, and I’m connecting via crap Southwest WiFi, so even thought it’s early WoW and efficient coding, I was still very pleasantly surprised at how well it ran.

WoW running on Southwest WiFi

WoW running on Southwest WiFi

You didn’t think I was going to let you see my character name now did you?

Even writing this post was easy and responsive. Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of this whole experience. What is easily the worst speedtest I’ve ever run did not manifest in terms of poor performance; quite the opposite, actually. Everything ran very smoothly, whether it was serving up video, playing WoW, or even writing this post. I am definitely going to investigate further to see if I can identify how the one doesn’t lead to the other, and I will update when or if I make any further discoveries.

I guess it was worth the $8 after all.

UPDATE: The flight back was not so productive. I’m writing this update on said flight, and while my speedtest and ping results are similar to the flight out, performance this time suffered badly after about an hour although I can’t determine the exact culprit. Plex worked for a while, then stopped (it came back while writing this update, but in fits and starts; it would buffer heavily between brief plays while Blu-rays were a non-starter. The problem there is it could be an issue server-side). Additionally, Facebook wouldn’t load and Warcraft exhibited noticeable lag. There are many reasons this could be happening, from the odd tracerrt I ran that pathed through SoCal, to the heavy WiFi use by everyone else on the plane (as illustrated by a heavily populated netstat result), to the weather, and beyond. Moral of the story: Use Southwest WiFi at your own eight-dollar risk.

Going Up