QANTAS has celebrated its record half-year profit result by announcing the launch of free Wi-Fi will be fed at download speeds of between 12 Mbps and 25 Mbps — fast enough to stream movies, live sports and television shows.
Trials will begin on a domestic Boeing 737 flight later this year and a full rollout expected early next year on its domestic fleet of 330s and 737s.
Qantas passengers will soon be able to access free in-flight Wi-Fi delivering internet that is as fast as broadband connections on the ground.
Qantas will tap into the NBN’s Sky Muster satellites and deliver a deal with global satellite broadcaster ViaSat.
The airline will fit its planes with modems and antennas able to receive signals from the first NBN satellite, which launched into orbit late last year and is expected to become operational in late April. A second Sky Muster satellite is scheduled to launch mid this year.
“Bringing high-speed Wi-Fi to the domestic aviation market has been an ambition of ours for a long time and we now have access to the right technology to make it happen,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said.
“The sheer size of the Australian landmass creates some significant challenges for in-flight connectivity but the recent launch of NBN’s satellite has opened up new opportunities that we plan to take advantage of with ViaSat’s help,” Mr Joyce said.
He said internet speeds would be about 10 times faster than conventional in-flight Wi-Fi, meaning passengers could stream video and watch live news and sport.
“This service will give Qantas customers download speeds in the air similar to what they’re used to on the ground … you won’t be limited to checking your email or Facebook,” he said.
The trial will test the social acceptability of using services like FaceTime or Skype in flight before a final decision on policy is made.
“In the past the reaction to phone calls hasn’t been great,” Mr Joyce said. “We will be asking passengers what they think and what they want. Nothing has been decided on that.”
ViaSat, a Swedish-owned satellite broadcaster which delivers in-flight Wi-Fi to US airlines JetBlue, Virgin America and United Airlines, will connect Qantas planes with a KA-band satellite and ground stations that link them to the NBN.
The airline is also looking at how to enable high-speed wi-fi for international and regional travellers.
Rival airline Virgin Australia has also been looking at Wi-Fi options but is yet to progress the idea.
Qantas and Virgin have not stipulated whether an airfare increase would be required or if they would be included in the price of the fare.
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