After postponing the initial launch of its inflight Wi-Fi service, Qantas has now officially switched on the internet in its first Wi-Fi enabled plane, a single Boeing 737. Wi-Fi will currently run in beta mode on the Boeing 737 in question - VH-XZB - so that Qantas can continue to fine-tune the setup.
This aircraft will spend most of its time travelling the east coast of Australia, flying routes between Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. Flyers lucky enough to travel on this plane can expect speeds of up to 20Mbps per second. In real world trials, Qantas has found the network more than capable of achieving between 7Mbps and 12Mbps per device, which is fast enough to streaming high definition Netflix on a mobile device. Notably, access to inflight Wi-Fi will be free.
Customers travelling on the Wi-Fi ready plane will also get access to a couple of offers from streaming services. Stan will offer passengers a free three-month subscription with their fare, and Foxtel is offering three days of free access to Foxtel Go every time you travel. Qantas is calling Netflix and Spotify content partners, but both services' offers are the exact same free trial that anyone is eligible for.
Qantas is partnering with broadband band service provider ViaSat for the rollout. Planes will have connectivity to NBN's Sky Muster satellites and to ground stations across Australia.
Qantas expects to complete testing by the middle of the year, and plans to have 80 internet-capable aircraft by the end of 2018. In addition, Qantas is examining options for bringing reliable inflight Wi-Fi to regional and international flights.
Rival Virgin Australia is planning to launch its own inflight Wi-Fi service from the middle of April, and has partnered with provider Gogo for the technology. Gogo promises speeds of up to 70Mbps per aircraft, which when divided by an entire cabin of passengers, could end up far slower than what Qantas is promising.
Virgin will offer inflight Wi-Fi for free during the initial three-month testing period. As with Qantas, Virgin is initially fitting out a single Boeing 737 with the technology.