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