Qantas has announced plans to introduce free wireless internet to domestic flights from late 2016. The airline is tapping into the NBN network and is promising to deliver speeds up to 10 times faster than conventional on-board Wi-Fi. There are also plans to bring the service to its international fleet. Binge-watching Netflix on a 12-hour flight could soon become a reality.
Qantas is partnering with global broadband services provider ViaSat to deliver world-class Wi-Fi to its domestic and international flights. Best of all, the service will be provided as a free service to customers.
"This service will give Qantas customers download speeds in the air similar to what they’re used to on the ground," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce boasted in a statement. "You won’t be limited to checking your email or Facebook -- 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."
Deployment will initially be limited to a single Qantas Boeing 737 aircraft which will be retrofitted with a new modem and satellite antenna in late 2016. If the trial is successful, Qantas will rollout the service across all domestic A330s and B737s with a tentative completion date of early 2017.
Joyce acknowledged that Australia's expansive landmass makes inflight connectivity difficult, although the launch of NBN's satellite coupled with the assistance of ViaSat is expected to overcome these challenges. ViaSat has previously delivered Wi-Fi successfully to 500 aircraft in the US.
Qantas may eventually bring free high-speed Wi-Fi to its international and regional fleets. For the time being however, the rollout will be limited to domestic flights. Boo-urns.
For frequent business travellers, this is pretty great news: it means you can stay connected with co-workers and clients -- complete with video conferencing -- while in the air. Plus, you can use your streaming service of choice instead of relying on movie downloads or Qantas' in-flight entertainment. Hurrah!