I'm flying with Boeing right now: This post is filed from the Connexion by Boeing test plane flying out of Boeing Field just north of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. I'm on board with a number of journalists who are getting this demo flight today. The views are spectacular. I had no idea one could fly that close to Mt. Rainier.
The service has been working terrifically when the link is up--there were a few problems with the connection because of the short duration of the flight, our elevation, and the turns necessary to keep us within a large circle. The test plane is swank--a 737-400 with all first-class seating--but the service is the same on this flight as on the several planes on two routes of Lufthansa service. (Note: I missed the cutoff on the approach and wasn't able to post this during the flight; I added more detail below and posted a couple of hours later.)
I was able to run iChat AV (an Apple videoconferencing/chat program) to push video to my father, and handle two-way streaming video to two locations; the image at upper right of this post is how I looked to my colleague Adam Engst. (Interestingly, Adam has his home Internet feed coming over a few-mile wireless broadband link, and then distributed via Wi-Fi in his home. So you had Wi-Fi in the plane to satellite uplink then downlink to a ground station, over wire, and back over broadband wireless then Wi-Fi. With no glitches.)
I was also able to download a 1 Mb file in about 15 seconds transmitted via iChat (client-to-client transfer), check email, and perform other Internet tasks with no problems. Colleagues had more difficulties, but I will point out that I was using a Mac and they were wrestling with PC laptops that may have had layers of security that they had to punch through.
I tested a soft voice over IP phone (the Xten client using Vonage's soft phone service) on my Mac, and it made calls fine, but I didn't have a noise-canceling headset, so the calls were impossible to talk over the noise of the flight. However, the Connexion folks let me try a demonstration hardware VoIP phone which is given priority for traffic over the satellite connection, but not yet over the local WLAN. The phone came with a closed-air headset and noise-canceling system. The sound was superior to a cell call by a longshot, and latency was extremely small. Because of the closed-air setup and pass-through volume on the mike, I was talking at what seemed to me like a normal volume, but my seatmate (Steve Manes of Forbes) said he could barely hear me.
Connexion gives this demonstration to prove the service works as well as to answer questions. Among the questions asked were whether Connexion had reduced airplane downtime to install their service. Rumors were that it could take 20 days to install the service; more recent reports put it at 10 days. The sales director said during this test flight that they now have installation down to seven days, which puts it within a normal extended maintenance turnaround, making it more feasible to install during one of those periods.