I’m a big fan of T-Mobile. I readily admit that their US network is not the best there is; the general consensus seems to be that that honor belongs to AT&T and Verizon. However, T-Mobile offers great value in many areas, including one often-ignored perk that I use all the time: free in-flight WiFi.
Connecting From Up There
The name of the game is Gogo. As long as the airline’s WiFi provider is Gogo, T-Mobile’s system will work, and is included for all T-Mobile customers. Far as I can tell, the big domestic carriers use Gogo, including American and Delta.
You make it happen by turning on your phone’s WiFi (while in the air and in airplane mode), and connecting to the Gogo network. Then, open up a browser and try to access a webpage until you get redirected to a Gogo login screen. Scroll down and choose the option for T-Mobile customers.
At that point, it will ask you to log in with your phone number. Once you do that, you’ll get one hour of free internet access, per flight.
However, you get free texting (including iMessage, Viber and Whatsapp) all flight long.
There are reports that, if you are on a family plan, you can get one hour per line, meaning that you can login again with another line once your first hour ends. However, I tried it multiple times on a recent flight and was not able to get it to work.
The Need for Speed
As far as I know, you get the same Gogo as everyone else on the plane. In my experience, it’s not very fast (and you can’t do streaming over it), but it works fine for e-mail and general web browsing. It’s also acceptable for Twitter and Instagram, but not as fast as a quick land-based WiFi network. Oddly enough, I tried to do a speedtest on a Miami-New York (La Guardia) flight, but I could not get it to load (although the internet was working).
This is one of the reasons I stay with T-Mobile. It’s a solid perk that lets you use that last hour of your flight to catch up on e-mail, social media, or what have you. Since my flights are generally in the 3-4 hour range, what I’ll usually do is start by watching a movie, and then turn on the WiFi to catch up on work. I’ve found it to be a great time-saver, since I hate getting to my hotel all tired and having to deal with a pile of messages to answer.
Over and out!