The new service will feature speeds up to 10 times faster than conventional on-board wi-fi, giving customers the ability to stream movies, TV shows, the latest news bulletins and live sports on domestic flights via the internet.
In-flight trials are expected to begin with a single Qantas Boeing 737 aircraft in late 2016, retrofitted with equipment to enable high-speed wi-fi. A full roll-out across Qantas Domestic’s fleet of A330s and B737s is planned from early 2017, with the aircraft to be fitted with modems and the advanced antenna that receives the satellite signal.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the goal was to make Australia home to the world’s best inflight wi-fi experience.
“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,” Mr Joyce said.
“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 provide a link to the internet.
The user-friendly speeds delivered by ViaSat to airlines in the U.S. have driven take-up rates among passengers that are four times higher than the industry average.
“This service will give Qantas customers download speeds in the air similar to what they’re used to on the ground,” Mr Joyce said.
“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. 2
“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.”
Qantas is also examining options for high-speed wi-fi across its international and regional fleet.
“We are delighted to be working with Qantas, who share our commitment to offering airline passengers the best, most convenient in-flight connectivity experience,” said Mark Dankberg, ViaSat’s Chairman and CEO.
“We bring deep in-flight internet expertise to Qantas, serving close to 500 U.S. commercial aircraft. We connect more passengers per flight with higher speeds and more bandwidth per passenger than any other service – reaching speeds up to 20 Mbps per person and enough total bandwidth to support virtually any activity including streaming live or on-demand video and music.
“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.”
Qantas will be engaging with relevant regulators on the certification and approval for the new service.