Mile High WiFi

A First Look At In-Flight Internet Connectivity

John P. Rula, James Newman, Fabian E Bustamante, Arash Molavi Kakhki, David Choffnes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

In-Flight Communication (IFC), available on a growing number of commercial flights, is often received by consumers with both awe for its mere availability and harsh criticism for its poor performance. Indeed, IFC provides Internet connectivity in some of the most challenging conditions with aircraft traveling at speeds in excess of 500 mph at 30,000 feet above the ground. Yet, while existing services do provide basic Internet \em accessibility, anecdotal reports rank their quality of service as, at best, poor. In this paper, we present the first characterization of deployed IFC systems. Using over 45 flight-hours of measurements, we profile the performance of IFC across the two dominant access technologies -- direct air-to-ground communication (DA2GC) and mobile satellite service (MSS). We show that IFC QoS is in large part determined by the high latencies inherent to DA2GC and MSS, with RTTs averaging 200ms and 750ms, respectively, and that these high latencies directly impact the performance of common applications such as web browsing. While each IFC technology is based on well studied wireless communication technologies, our findings reveal that IFC links experience further degraded link performance than their technological antecedents. We find median loss rates of 7%, and nearly 40% loss at the 90th percentile for MSS, 6.8x larger than recent characterizations of residential satellite networks. We extend our IFC study exploring the potential of the newly released HTTP/2 and QUIC protocols in an emulated IFC environment, finding that QUIC is able to improve page load times by as much as 7.9 times. In addition, we find that HTTP/2»s use of multiplexing multiple requests onto a single TCP connection performs up to 4.8x \em worse than HTTP/1.1 when faced with large numbers of objects. We use network emulation to explore proposed technological improvements to existing IFC systems finding that high link losses, and not bandwidth, account for the largest factor of performance degradation with applications such as web browsing.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference (WWW '18)
PublisherInternational World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee
Pages1449-1458
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)978-1450356398
StatePublished - 2018

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Internet
Communication
HTTP
Satellites
Telecommunication links
Quality of service
Communication systems
Multiplexing
Aircraft
Availability
Bandwidth
Network protocols
Degradation
Air

Cite this

Rula, J. P., Newman, J., Bustamante, F. E., Molavi Kakhki, A., & Choffnes, D. (2018). Mile High WiFi: A First Look At In-Flight Internet Connectivity. In Proceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference (WWW '18) (pp. 1449-1458). International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee.
Rula, John P. ; Newman, James ; Bustamante, Fabian E ; Molavi Kakhki, Arash ; Choffnes, David. / Mile High WiFi : A First Look At In-Flight Internet Connectivity. Proceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference (WWW '18). International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee, 2018. pp. 1449-1458
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title = "Mile High WiFi: A First Look At In-Flight Internet Connectivity",
abstract = "In-Flight Communication (IFC), available on a growing number of commercial flights, is often received by consumers with both awe for its mere availability and harsh criticism for its poor performance. Indeed, IFC provides Internet connectivity in some of the most challenging conditions with aircraft traveling at speeds in excess of 500 mph at 30,000 feet above the ground. Yet, while existing services do provide basic Internet \em accessibility, anecdotal reports rank their quality of service as, at best, poor. In this paper, we present the first characterization of deployed IFC systems. Using over 45 flight-hours of measurements, we profile the performance of IFC across the two dominant access technologies -- direct air-to-ground communication (DA2GC) and mobile satellite service (MSS). We show that IFC QoS is in large part determined by the high latencies inherent to DA2GC and MSS, with RTTs averaging 200ms and 750ms, respectively, and that these high latencies directly impact the performance of common applications such as web browsing. While each IFC technology is based on well studied wireless communication technologies, our findings reveal that IFC links experience further degraded link performance than their technological antecedents. We find median loss rates of 7{\%}, and nearly 40{\%} loss at the 90th percentile for MSS, 6.8x larger than recent characterizations of residential satellite networks. We extend our IFC study exploring the potential of the newly released HTTP/2 and QUIC protocols in an emulated IFC environment, finding that QUIC is able to improve page load times by as much as 7.9 times. In addition, we find that HTTP/2»s use of multiplexing multiple requests onto a single TCP connection performs up to 4.8x \em worse than HTTP/1.1 when faced with large numbers of objects. We use network emulation to explore proposed technological improvements to existing IFC systems finding that high link losses, and not bandwidth, account for the largest factor of performance degradation with applications such as web browsing.",
author = "Rula, {John P.} and James Newman and Bustamante, {Fabian E} and {Molavi Kakhki}, Arash and David Choffnes",
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Rula, JP, Newman, J, Bustamante, FE, Molavi Kakhki, A & Choffnes, D 2018, Mile High WiFi: A First Look At In-Flight Internet Connectivity. in Proceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference (WWW '18). International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee, pp. 1449-1458.

Mile High WiFi : A First Look At In-Flight Internet Connectivity. / Rula, John P.; Newman, James; Bustamante, Fabian E; Molavi Kakhki, Arash; Choffnes, David.

Proceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference (WWW '18). International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee, 2018. p. 1449-1458.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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T1 - Mile High WiFi

T2 - A First Look At In-Flight Internet Connectivity

AU - Rula, John P.

AU - Newman, James

AU - Bustamante, Fabian E

AU - Molavi Kakhki, Arash

AU - Choffnes, David

N1 - doi>10.1145/3178876.3186057

PY - 2018

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N2 - In-Flight Communication (IFC), available on a growing number of commercial flights, is often received by consumers with both awe for its mere availability and harsh criticism for its poor performance. Indeed, IFC provides Internet connectivity in some of the most challenging conditions with aircraft traveling at speeds in excess of 500 mph at 30,000 feet above the ground. Yet, while existing services do provide basic Internet \em accessibility, anecdotal reports rank their quality of service as, at best, poor. In this paper, we present the first characterization of deployed IFC systems. Using over 45 flight-hours of measurements, we profile the performance of IFC across the two dominant access technologies -- direct air-to-ground communication (DA2GC) and mobile satellite service (MSS). We show that IFC QoS is in large part determined by the high latencies inherent to DA2GC and MSS, with RTTs averaging 200ms and 750ms, respectively, and that these high latencies directly impact the performance of common applications such as web browsing. While each IFC technology is based on well studied wireless communication technologies, our findings reveal that IFC links experience further degraded link performance than their technological antecedents. We find median loss rates of 7%, and nearly 40% loss at the 90th percentile for MSS, 6.8x larger than recent characterizations of residential satellite networks. We extend our IFC study exploring the potential of the newly released HTTP/2 and QUIC protocols in an emulated IFC environment, finding that QUIC is able to improve page load times by as much as 7.9 times. In addition, we find that HTTP/2»s use of multiplexing multiple requests onto a single TCP connection performs up to 4.8x \em worse than HTTP/1.1 when faced with large numbers of objects. We use network emulation to explore proposed technological improvements to existing IFC systems finding that high link losses, and not bandwidth, account for the largest factor of performance degradation with applications such as web browsing.

AB - In-Flight Communication (IFC), available on a growing number of commercial flights, is often received by consumers with both awe for its mere availability and harsh criticism for its poor performance. Indeed, IFC provides Internet connectivity in some of the most challenging conditions with aircraft traveling at speeds in excess of 500 mph at 30,000 feet above the ground. Yet, while existing services do provide basic Internet \em accessibility, anecdotal reports rank their quality of service as, at best, poor. In this paper, we present the first characterization of deployed IFC systems. Using over 45 flight-hours of measurements, we profile the performance of IFC across the two dominant access technologies -- direct air-to-ground communication (DA2GC) and mobile satellite service (MSS). We show that IFC QoS is in large part determined by the high latencies inherent to DA2GC and MSS, with RTTs averaging 200ms and 750ms, respectively, and that these high latencies directly impact the performance of common applications such as web browsing. While each IFC technology is based on well studied wireless communication technologies, our findings reveal that IFC links experience further degraded link performance than their technological antecedents. We find median loss rates of 7%, and nearly 40% loss at the 90th percentile for MSS, 6.8x larger than recent characterizations of residential satellite networks. We extend our IFC study exploring the potential of the newly released HTTP/2 and QUIC protocols in an emulated IFC environment, finding that QUIC is able to improve page load times by as much as 7.9 times. In addition, we find that HTTP/2»s use of multiplexing multiple requests onto a single TCP connection performs up to 4.8x \em worse than HTTP/1.1 when faced with large numbers of objects. We use network emulation to explore proposed technological improvements to existing IFC systems finding that high link losses, and not bandwidth, account for the largest factor of performance degradation with applications such as web browsing.

M3 - Conference contribution

SN - 978-1450356398

SP - 1449

EP - 1458

BT - Proceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference (WWW '18)

PB - International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee

ER -

Rula JP, Newman J, Bustamante FE, Molavi Kakhki A, Choffnes D. Mile High WiFi: A First Look At In-Flight Internet Connectivity. In Proceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference (WWW '18). International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee. 2018. p. 1449-1458