CNET's Zack Whittaker headed to Newark International Airport to check out Gogo's latest service: talking and texting in the skies, as though you were on the ground. We boarded Gogo's private plane to test the service out at 30,000 feet.
We boarded the flight early in the morning, armed with our smartphones, ready to test out the service, which is pegged for a early 2014 launch. Texting and talking requires Wi-Fi access, so you can't keep a conversation going gate-to-gate, even with recent changes to the aviation rules. You still have to switch your device to "airplane mode" until you're at 10,000 feet.
The plane itself was plush but small. But there was no need to wait in line at the TSA checkpoint. Because it's a private flight, there was no security. We even got to poke our heads into the cockpit -- although, not while they were flying.
Because of airline rules, we weren't able to get access to Wi-Fi until 10,000 feet. Once the Gogo wireless networks are switched on, you can connect your Android device or iPhone to the simulated cellular service, enabling texting and talking between devices in the air as well as on the ground.
Here we have Gogo engineer Ron Barczak testing the network once we reach altitude at which the wireless network can be switched on. In his testing, he's able to tweak the settings to ensure the best connectivity during the flight.
Although the app itself is still in "beta" development, its functionality is simple. Voice calls were tricky, but are much at the mercy of the plane's Wi-Fi network. Text messages were sent and received instantly.
Barczak showed us around the testing station, where numerous boxes and servers are stacked up. These racks enable the air-to-ground connectivity. The in-flight technology company is currently experimenting with various boxes of different designs.