To say that I became a little obsessed with my terrible Wi-Fi experience on Southwest Airlines from LAS to HOU today is an understatement.
Trying @SouthwestAir #Wi-Fi again. It’s still terrible. Don’t think I’ll be flying #SWA again specifically because of this. #YourWiFiSucks
— Wireless Nerd (@Wirelessnerd) September 12, 2014
As anyone who may have been a follower of mine for the last 4 hours and has since decided to mute me will tell you, I was a little upset. So, instead of just randomly venting on Twitter about the whole thing, I figured I would be pointed and a bit constructive.
First, let me say how much I appreciate Southwest Airlines Customer Service. A kind fellow name Sean took care of me via Twitter and immediately had the $8 charge reversed, while still allowing me to use the painfully slow access to vent and investigate. So, kudos to you guys Southwest for not kicking me off even though I was hating for 2 hours on your service. Well played, and much appreciated. Despite what I said, your customer experience will keep me coming back as a customer, as long as I don’t have work to do on the plane. Fair?
So, what’s the issue?
Check this out: one of the great things about SWA is that they let you watch all the video you can ingest from a few channels through a partnership with Dish. Cool huh? Yeah, if that’s all you wanna do.
Without actually having any under-the-hood privileges, I’m gonna make some assumptions:
1. The video is pushed to a local server on the plane and then fed to the customers. Multicast style, right?
2. Users are so swept away with the video offering, watching the game, TLC, and what not, that they do that the majority of the time .. unless they’re a nut like me who’s trying to do a few things at a time.
3. All of that video is basically on-net at that point so the quality is perfect. And it is perfect, beautiful streams to tablets, mobiles, and laptops alike.
Here’s where I *think* the issue is: the Access Point on the plane.
I dug around as much as I could to find out who on God’s green Earth was responsible for the Southwest Wi-Fi offering. I even reached out to @FlyerTalk on Twitter to see if they had any thing I could reference.
You bet they did, 5 pages worth of posts dedicated to how terrible the Wi-Fi is on SWA. Some even hitting directly on the head of what I thought part of the issue was:
What I found was that a bunch of years back Southwest awarded the contract to a group called Row44. Row44 was acquired by Advanced Inflight Alliance back in 2012. Since then an award was made to Kontron to take care of the in-flight entertainment and inflight wi-fi component of the system.
So, Kontron has the contract via Row44, and they deploy this thing:
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