The short story
In-Flight Communication (IFC), which can be purchased 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 accessibility, anecdotal reports rank their quality of service as, at best,poor.
We are profiling the performance of competing IFC technologies, across the two dominant access technologies -- direct air-to-ground communication (DA2GC) and mobile satellite service (MSS). Our initial studies have shown very large last-mile latencies of IFC technologies -- up to 1,000ms for MSS and 300ms for DA2GC. To put that in context, this is 6 and 20x higher than the latency on your cell phone LTE connection!
Such high latencies adversely impact the performance of common applications such as web browsing, the most popular activity in flight. We are releasing ScaleUp, a new Chrome extension to help you endure poor IFC connections!
ScaleUp is a Chrome extension that measures and dynamically adjust every page you load to improve your quality of experience while browsing.
The extension passively measures your network performance. With an understanding of its impact on your browsing experience, it transparently adapts the content loaded with any page based on these measurements letting you experience a "faster" web.
You can easily launch an active measurement from the extension pop-up window and see ScaleUp adapt to the measured performance. ScaleUp is part of an ongoing effort to characterize and improve in-flight connectivity; take us on your next flight and contribute to our research!
- What is ScaleUp?
- Currently, websites are typically very heavy, with lots of images, videos, gifs, different fonts, etc. This is because most networks, WiFi or home, can easily support these types of websites. However, in cases like In-Flight WiFi (and in many developing regions) these websites are “too heavy” and load slowly because all traffic has to travel to a satellite, ~20,000 miles above earth, and then a plane traveling around 500 mph. ScaleUp is a Chrome extension that monitors your network performance and, when necessary, transparently adapt webpages to make them load faster, improving your browsing experience.
- Do I have to install/uninstall ScaleUp before/after my flights?
- No, that would be such a pain! Don’t worry, unless you are using In-Flight WiFi (and believe us, this is *very* easy to tell!), ScaleUp just sits there and does nothing at all. So, install it and let it be; next time you are flying and browsing, it will be ready to help!
- How does ScaleUp ''transparently adapt webpages?''
- A number of ways but a key one is to increase the scale factor of websites when your network is slow. These makes fewer objects visible on the page which makes the render time much shorter and, in turn, makes the webpage show up in the browser much quicker. Other things include blocking certain types of objects that could reduce network load without being integral to the look and feel of the site (e.g., font types).
- What do you mean ''monitor network performance?''
- ScaleUp measures the time to first byte (TTFB) of data for websites you browse, taking note of the time that requests start and when the your computer receives the page, and uses this as a measure of network speed. In addition, ScaleUp will occasionally (or at your command) actively download pre-determined images from the Internet to more precisely determine the bandwidth and latency of the network.
- Is ScaleUp reporting what websites I visit?
- Nope! We consider that private and we only monitor your network performance.
- How can I help?
- By installing this application, you are already helping us gather information on network speeds and page load times! Please let us know of any ideas you have for the application or if you run into any problems with the extension! You can email suggestions or problems to: scaleup@...
- John P. Rula, Fabian E. Bustamante, David R. Choffnes.When IPs Fly: A Case for Redefining Airline Communication. In Proc. Hotmobile 2016.