The End of an Era: Qantas Announces Wifi, Keeping Us Connected

Qantas' trial program that will provide free access to high-speed wifi for passengers.

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Last week Qantas announced they would trial a program that provides passengers with free access to high-speed wifi.

In their presentation Qantas Chief Executive Officer, Alan Joyce, told media that the airline has wanted to roll-out this kind of service in the domestic market for some time.

Swedish company ViaSat, an experienced provider of inflight wifi, for carriers like Virgin America and United Airlines, has partnered with Qantas on the project.

Joyce said that until now there was not the technology to resolve the problems in trying to achieve workable inflight connectivity. But the National Broadband Network (NBN) has changed that. The Australian-based carrier will take advantage of the NBN satellite launched last year.

ViaSat’s technology creates an air-to-satellite-to-ground-to-internet connectivity.

So far only one Boeing 737 will be fitted out with modems and antenna, Joyce was not specific about tech specs.

However Mark Dankberg, ViaSat’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said that his organisation can promise “more bandwidth reaching speeds of 20Mbps per person than any other service.”

“You won’t be limited to checking your email or Facebook,” Joyce said, adding it would be ten times faster than a ground service.

“It’s going to be about watching the football live, streaming your favourite TV show or movie, catching up on the latest YouTube videos, or shopping online.”

He said that this kind of feature would, “open up a lot of potential to improve inflight entertainment, which we’re constantly looking to enhance.”

Joyce told the media conference that a major goal of the trial would be to gauge passenger appetite for this kind of inflight feature.

Phone calls, for instance, were not accepted with much enthusiasm, when the airline first tried them out, he said. In particular, focus will be on the ‘social acceptability’ of Facetime and Skype use.

Qantas says they will start the free service on domestic runs through their A330 and B737 fleets from 2017.

There are plans for the technology on Jetstar too, Joyce said, but since it is a pay-for-use brand, passengers will be paying for it.

Qantas are ‘exploring options’ for inflight connectivity for their international and regional routes, there are no firm plans.

The news of the new venture came the same day Joyce announced a record half-year profit of $921 million, up 150% on this time last year.

Right now US carriers are leaders in this kind of service.

A recent consumer survey from Routehappy explained that the main reason for American supremacy in the space was that non-US airlines tended to offer the service only on long haul flights.