Qantas says it has achieved encouraging results from its first passenger internet wi-fi trial as the clock ticks down to the official start of the service for customers.
The airline said in a blog post on its website on Tuesday the 140 passengers on board the flight achieved “typical download speeds” of between seven and 12 megabits per second to each connected device, noting the minimum required to stream movies on most handheld devices was 1.5Mbps.
“We gathered a huge amount of user data from this test flight, and we’re now working to make final adjustments ahead of inviting customers to test, then use the system,” Qantas said.
“We expect that will happen in the next few weeks.”
The flight took place “a few days ago”, Qantas said, with all the passengers on board Qantas staff.
One of the airline’s Boeing 737-800s, VH-XZB, had a satellite antenna, multiple wireless access points in the cabin and other hardware installed in November 2016.
The aircraft has been flying with the technology switched off for passengers as it conducted ground and inflight tests with its technology parter ViaSat.
During the three-hour test flight, the staff members were asked to do a range of online actions from downloading an app to streaming content to sending emails to testing out the content filters. Some 200 devices were connected to the onboard wi-fi, Qantas said.
“Most of the testers experienced a seamless streaming experience. But everyone downloading apps at one time did test the limits,” Qantas said, noting that this was not something that was expected to happen normally.
In the flightdeck, pilots used the inflight internet wi-fi to gather updated weather information on a tablet, while cabin crew tested an app to help with missed connections as a result of a delay.
Qantas announced in February 2016 plans to equip its domestic fleet of Boeing 737-800s and Airbus A330s with internet wi-fi, with connectivity to be provided by ViaSat’s global satellite network and the National Broadband Network’s Sky Muster satellites.
The oneworld alliance member planned to provide the service free of charge, with passengers able to stream television programs from Foxtel for free both during the flight and for the following three days. Meanwhile, Netflix and Spotify would offer a 30-day free trial to passengers who subscribe to the service.
The airline has said previously it planned to roll out internet wi-fi across the rest of its domestic domestic Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 aircraft from mid-2017 onwards.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has said previously the satellites, which use the high capacity Ka-band, would deliver internet speeds 10 times faster than conventional on-board wi-fi. The airline was also considering offering wi-fi on regional and international aircraft.
Qantas is the first of the three largest airlines in Oceania to planning to offer internet wi-fi in 2017.
Air New Zealand announced its October its international and domestic jet fleet would be progressively equipped with wi-fi from 2017 utilising the Inmarsat new global GX satellite constellation. Trials were scheduled for the second half of 2017 on a new Airbus A321neo and refitted Boeing 777-300ER.
And Virgin Australia said in July 2016 it would offer internet connectivity on its 737, 777-300ER and A330 fleet from mid-2017. However, the carrier was yet to announce details about the technology it would use, its pricing model and any potential partners for the service.
Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti said on February 17 details of the airline’s wifi offering would be made shortly.