Qantas to bring inflight internet to Australia

QANTASBOEING737800HBARFIMG_0524
Qantas’s domestic Boeing 737-800s will be equipped with satellite receiving antenna and modems for onboard internet. (Rob Finlayson)

Free high-speed wi-fi internet access is coming to an Australian domestic flight, with Qantas planning to roll out on board wifi from 2017.

Subject to a successful trial on board a Boeing 737-800 due to be conducted in late 2016, the technology will be installed on Qantas’s domestic fleet of 737s and Airbus A330s.

The internet connectivity will be provided by ViaSat’s global satellite network and the National Broadband Network’s Sky Muster satellites, Qantas said in a statement on Tuesday alongside its 2015/16 first half financial results.

While Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce declined to give an specific internet speeds potentially available for its onboard wi-fi, he did say the satellites used would give the airline “huge bandwidth that we haven’t seen before and coverage across the country”.

“I’ve been asked not to give the number out of what the bandwidth speed could be, but the number we’ve been using is four times what you could get on the ground potentially,” Joyce told reporters on Tuesday.

“That means you can stream movies, we could have all of the passengers on board the aircraft looking at Netflix and streaming the movie they missed out last night on. Or watching live TV, in terms of the sports matches that are there.

“We think – and with over 100 passengers on the 737 using it simultaneously – it is worthwhile us testing that and making sure that’s deliverable, and that’s why you want to go through the tests.”

The trial will also look at the use of voice applications such as Skype and FaceTime on board and “whether people find them acceptable or not”, Joyce said.

Qantas did previously trial onboard internet access on its Airbus A380 flights to the US, but said previously there was poor take-up on those flights.

ViaSat, the global broadband services and technology company delivering the service, said Qantas was its first airline customer in the Asia Pacific region.

The company said in a statement the new service would be “up to 10 times faster than traditional global ground-based in-flight internet services”.

“As a global broadband services provider we are bringing the best internet service – with the highest capacity, speeds and take-rates – to Qantas passengers, ensuring they enjoy the ultimate in-flight internet experience,” ViaSat chief executive Mark Dankberg said in a statement.

“We know as a premium airline, Qantas must deliver on its promise to bring quality services to its customers, and we are flattered Qantas selected ViaSat as its in-flight partner of choice.”

While Qantas planned to have internet as a free service, Joyce said the technology could also be deployed on Jetstar flights as a paid offering.

“Qantas is a bundled product as we call it. Everything’s included, the meal, the drink, the seat, and wi-fi will be part of that,” Joyce said.

“This is an enhancement a premium airline like Qantas needs to do for the future. It’s an enhancement that we would only introduce when we were sure the service was good, and the product was actually going to be delivering what our customers want.

“If it was introduced for Jetstar customers, they can get on a Jetstar aircraft for low airfares, but if they want this, they would be paying for it. That’s one of the things we will be considering at the appropriate time. But for Qantas, we’ve always included these products within the airfare.”

Qantas said it a statement it was also “examining options for high speed wi-fi across its international and regional fleet.

The inflight wifi requires the approval and certification from Australian regulators.

An August 2015 image of the NBN satellite coverage. (NBN Co)
An August 2015 image of the NBN satellite coverage. (NBN Co)

Comments

  1. Mike says

    I doubt it will be completely free. I suspect it will be be much like Emirates. You get a bit of data for free, enough for the obligatory airborne social media check in, but if you want more data you have to pay for it.

  2. adammudhen says

    Surprised just how long it’s taken for inflight wi-fi to be introduced here. I imagine the Syd-Mel and Syd/Mel-Per flights are going to see big take-up of this.

    VA announcement coming in 3, 2, 1…..