Here I am, over the clouds again and an interesting aspect of flying in the US is that they have Internet access on board on many of their flights. Here's how it worked for me while putting together this blog post:
On Delta, Internet over the clouds is provided by GoGoAir and I was getting download speeds between 1 and 3 Mbit/s with round trip times of around 90 ms without my VPN. With an OpenVPN tunnel to my gateway in Europe I got round trip delay times of around 260 ms, quite a good value as well. In the uplink direction I got around half a megabit per second out of the connection. Over the hour I used the system it was quite stable but there were temporary outages of 15-20 seconds every now and then and occasional long round trip times of several seconds while data only trickled in. Not sure why these things happen, cell edge or handover problems perhaps?
Wikipedia says that the system uses 160 ground base stations distributed over the continent and 'classic' EvDo 3G connectivity between the plane and the ground. That would be consistent with the speeds I've experienced but it could of course always be that traffic shaping is applied on a device basis and overall speeds could have been higher.
Web browsing felt snappy and just for the fun of it I dropped my VPN tunnel for a little while to see if Gogo still forges Google certificates for Youtube. It looks like the bad press around the issue has made them think about it again and I couldn't observe rogue certificates for Youtube anymore.
Today a 3G link to the ground might still be sufficient but with rising data traffic the system needs to be upgraded to a faster technology in the future. Let's see if ground based LTE will be the technology of choice for planes flying over ground rather than satellites which are the only choice over oceans for obvious reasons. Personally I'd prefer ground based communication, as using satellites in geostationary orbit results in very long round tip delay times.