Qantas to use NBN, ViaSat to deliver in-flight Wi-Fi from 2017


news Qantas is set to introduce free inflight Wi-Fi from next year under a partnership with international broadband services provider ViaSat and the NBN network.

The new service will feature speeds “up to 10 times” faster than conventional on-board Wi-Fi, giving customers the ability to stream movies, news and sports on domestic flights, Qantas said in a statement.

In-flight trials are expected to begin later this year aboard a Qantas Boeing 737 retrofitted with modems and the advanced antenna that receives the satellite signal. A full roll-out across Qantas’ domestic fleet of A330s and B737s is expected from early in 2017.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said: “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.”

“The sheer size of the Australian landmass creates some significant challenges for inflight 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,” he added.

Under the deal, ViaSat will provide Qantas with connectivity between the aircraft and the high capacity KA-band satellite and ground stations, which will then connect users to the Internet.

The speeds delivered by ViaSat to airlines in the US have resulted in take-up rates among passengers that are four times higher than the industry average, according to Qantas.

“This service will give Qantas customers download speeds in the air similar to what they’re used to on the ground,” Joyce said. “This kind of inflight connectivity would also open up a lot of potential to improve in-flight entertainment, which we’re constantly looking to enhance.”

“As a premium carrier, delivering value for money to our customers is extremely important to us. That’s why we’ll be offering access to Wi-Fi for free, on top of all the other things that are included when you fly Qantas,” he said.

Qantas is also looking at options to add high-speed Wi-Fi access across its international and regional fleet.

Mark Dankberg, ViaSat’s Chairman and CEO, said: “We are delighted to be working with Qantas, who share our commitment to offering airline passengers the best, most convenient in-flight connectivity experience.”

ViaSat serves close to 500 US commercial aircraft, providing in-flight Wi-Fi that reaches speeds of up to 20Mbps per person and enough total bandwidth to support “virtually any activity”, including streaming live or on-demand video and music, Dankberg explained.

“Our experience is proven on 1,500 flights daily, with as many as 148 simultaneous active devices on any given flight and with many of those devices using streaming media,” he said.

Qantas will be engaging with relevant regulators on the certification and approval for the new service.

Image credit: Qantas


  1. Well, so much for remote users finally getting a reasonable service. Once Qantas and users within sight of capital cities are catered for there’ll be nothing left. I’ll bet there are no download limits for Qantas.

  2. Not sure how I feel about this…this is not the intended purpose of the NBN satellite service, and can only deteriorate service levels for “on the ground” users in remote areas.

  3. hey folks, I can’t see this having a performance hit on the NBN … the amount of people on planes simultaneously in Australia is extremely minimal ;)

    • Yeah, I agree Renai.

      I actually think it’s a pretty innovative use of the nbn™ satellites…especially for a dinosaur company like Qantas…

      It also highlights what a good idea the satellites were in the first place :o)

    • And I’m going to hazard a guess that they’d be NATing each plane anyway. Seeing as the entire Qantas fleet only number 118, I don’t see this as an issue at all.

      Not like sticking 50k people in Western Tassie on satellite type impact anyway…

    • Yes, but they’d presumably be relying on the large spot beams as that’s what would be required for any stability in an aircraft – and those have very limited capacity indeed.

      All the calculations for the satellite service assume it will be used at fixed residences and businesses. It doesn’t support “moving targets” and was never intended to, not because that wouldn’t be handy, but because it would interfere with providing a guaranteed quality service. Imagine if a small telco claimed they’d done a deal to start using NBN FW to service mobile phones, it would be seen as completely irresponsible.

      I’m keen on in flight wifi, I just think people need to realise it really will be a basic service – if Qantas claims they’ll be getting hundreds of Mbps to each aircraft (and that’s what Alan Joyce is implying) they are dreaming.

  4. How are they planning to deliver the promised speeds? Given a Qantas 737 seats 168 people, Joyce has been saying they can provide each passenger 25Mbs, and is saying they’ll allow live streaming over the internet, will each passenger get their own satellite connection?

    • I was recently on a Virgin America flight that had the new ViaSat installed and there was heaps of people on there using laptop etc and I was streaming high quality Netflix just fine so it can be done.

      • Oh it can be done for sure, the issue is the NBN sat had the number of ground based users doubled on it by MTM and it generally speaking suffers from congestion in various areas as a result and not everyone is connected to it as yet.

        If there was a 3rd/4th satellite up then awesome sauce this is great news because it wouldn’t affect those on the ground.

    • I don’t read that at all. I read it as about giving each plane an NBN connection and NAT to the rest of the passengers.

      • Yes, this is my thought too, but how much bandwidth are they taking from the satellites, given a normal connection is only providing 25Mbs, but Joyce is offering this to each passenger. Each 737 would need 4200Mbs if every passenger were to make full use of the service.

  5. So where is this extra capacity coming from? We have limits / quotas / speed caps for rural users, but suddenly there is extra capacity on the satellites for airlines?

  6. Not sure on the actual logistics of connecting x number of people at a time, but given we are talking about a maximum number of people aggregated across an aircraft that can hold a maximum number of users/ devices I am certain it can be done. While travelling in London recently I made use of the free wifi in the underground provided by Virgin internet – speeds were always in the high 90’s and there are how many people in those tube tunnels/ trains/ stations each day ?

    • There’s a huge difference between providing wifi in an underground tunnel and providing it on an aircraft 30,000ft in the air. Getting 1Gbit fibre (or whatever) and some access points in a train tunnel might sound like a significant undertaking but it’s chump change compared to dealing with satellites.

  7. Well, given that no one on the ground actually ‘wants’ satellite broadband anyway, I guess it makes sense to find a use for it somewhere, LOL!
    Anyhow, by the time they get this in-flight wifi up and running, I’m sure NBN will realise that they’ll have to move many many thousands of users off satellite, to make it a viable service for those that remain. Folks in truly remote locations.
    It would only take about 93000 users simultaneously streaming netflix or similar in SD (at ~1.5Mbps),
    or 32000 in HD, to completely use up all the 140Gbps bandwidth that these two sats have to offer, and that’s not including anything else!
    Or similarly, 5600 users downloading large files at 25Mbps at the same time.
    Realistically, I think these 2 new sats could support around 40k users, for a solid , but basic service.
    Any more is pushing it in this day and age I think.
    Will be interesting to see how it all unfolds!

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