You always want good data speeds, but there are few places a good data connection is more important than at the airport. You might want to download some music or send some emails before going offline, and airport Wi-Fi can be congested and slow. However, things are improving, and some airports are faster than you might expect. Ookla, the company behind Speedtest.net, has checked US and Canadian airports to figure out which ones offer the best Wi-Fi speeds.
(Editors’ Note: Ookla is owned by j2 Global, the parent company of ExtremeTech’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)
You probably always have an LTE-equipped phone in your pocket, but airports are often a perfect storm of poor wireless service. They’re large, sturdy buildings positioned away from urban sprawl, and the crowds put strain on cell towers. Plus, you might not want to burn through mobile data to cache all that music and video you forgot to save before heading to the airport. Ookla tested the 51 largest airports in the US and Canada, and Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport ranked as the fastest. Actually, it wasn’t even close.
If you’re passing through the Honolulu airport, you’ll enjoy Wi-Fi speeds that hover around 145 Mbps down and about 163 Mbps up. The runner up was Chicago Midway, barely crossing 100 Mbps, making it 37.5 percent slower than the winning Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. Coming in at number three is Sea-Tac at 98 Mbps down and 138 Mbps up. That’s still a respectable showing, but Ookla reports that Sea-Tac’s speeds have fallen 4.4 percent since last year.
Most of the airports tested have enough speed to let you get things done on the internet, but the bottom handful of networks clock in under 10 Mbps. That can be painfully slow, depending on what you need to do. The lowest-ranked Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport offered barely 1 Mbps up and down.
When speeds are bad on the official airport network, travelers might turn to one of the spendy paid hotspots. Ookla also checked for these faster networks. Interestingly, the official airport Wi-Fi is faster in most places, but there are some middle and lower-tier airports with fast secondary networks. For example, The “united-club” SSID in Chicago O’Hare International Airport is 93 percent faster than the public network. In the Salt Lake City Airport, “DeltaSkyClub” is nearly 700 percent faster than the second-to-last public network. Although, it’s still just 18 Mbps.
You can check out the full analysis on the Speedtest blog. You might want to check it for any upcoming trips so you can decide whether it’s worth using the airport Wi-Fi, your LTE service, or getting on one of those premium hotspots.