Tuesday, 15 November 2016 18:46

Why?! Qantas delays in-flight Wi-Fi across entire domestic fleet until 2018


Despite promising the rollout of in-flight Wi-Fi from "early 2017", which it actually will still do with one plane, it won’t be until 2018 that Qantas' entire domestic fleet will be Wi-Fi equipped.

Ok, so from "early 2017" there will be one Qantas Boeing 737-800 (registration VH-XZB) aircraft that will offer free Wi-Fi at a claimed 10 times the speed of in-flight Wi-Fi services in the US and elsewhere.

The news of this announcement, and that of a similar one from Virgin Australia was noted earlier this year in our article entitled: "In-flight Wi-Fi promised for Australia skies, again, for 2017."

That news followed some great reasons why Wi-Fi was great for Qantas pilots and crew, too, and not just passengers, as we covered in an article from earlier this year entitled: ‘Wi-Fi: Qantas wants you to Wi-Fly up on high, free and fast.’

What we now know, according to Qantas, is that "the hardware fitout to the entire domestic fleet of B737 and A330 aircraft is planned to start in mid-2017, and is expected to be completed in 2018".

Now, that’s not to say that Qantas customers aren’t a step closer to experiencing world-leading inflight Wi-Fi: they are.

This is thanks to Qantas reporting "the successful hardware installation on the trial aircraft last week".

However, the aforementioned Boeing 737-800 aircraft with registration VH-XZB "has re-entered commercial service, but will operate for a few months without the Wi-Fi being available".


Because Qantas and its technology partner ViaSat, say they need to "do a number of ground and inflight tests of the new Wi-Fi system before making it available for customers early next year. This follows several rounds of testing which have already been performed on the ground.’

Qantas’ head of Customer Experience, Phil Capps, explains the delay of the hardware installation to more of the fleet while heralding its installation on a single aircraft as "an important milestone for the team".

Capps said: “We are very excited that we are a step closer to introducing our fast and free inflight Wi-Fi.

“Customers with a keen eye will be able to spot the satellite antenna, which is housed in a streamlined fibreglass radome on top of the fuselage, towards the rear of the aircraft. While we know that customers will want to connect to the Wi-Fi, we really do appreciate their patience while we go through our final testing process. We’re just as excited as them to roll this out.

“Putting Wi-Fi on board the aircraft has been an extraordinary task for the team. It requires a significant amount of testing to ensure that, first and foremost, the safety of the installation meets Qantas’ stringent standards, as well as ensuring the system will deliver the level of performance we expect at this stage of the trial.”

Qantas said its "engineers in Brisbane installed the hardware which includes a satellite antenna mounted on top of the aircraft".

"It took 10 engineers approximately 900 man hours to complete – or the equivalent of 12 working days to install and test the new hardware.

"The hardware also includes multiple wireless access points, which means that all customers will have the same signal, regardless of where they are sitting on the aircraft."

It all sounds like it is being set up to be as robust an in-flight Wi-Fi hotspot zone as possible, built for quality and speed.

Indeed, Qantas proudly boasts that its Wi-Fi 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".

That means you can say hi to live cricket in the sky, it means you can get your fix of HD Netflix, it means you can let your consciousness ebb between wakefulness and sleep as you mile-high surf the web, it means you can send emails to the Apple-baiting Ed Husic as you tune in to Apple Music, and it means you can, at high altitude, cruise as you watch Sky News. Or any news bulletin or SVOD/YouTube/Vimeo/etc service that takes your fancy.

Of course, as noted above, Wi-Fi isn’t just good for passengers. It is being billed as being of "huge benefit to the pilots and cabin crew. Pilots will be able to access more detailed live weather data, which will help reduce turbulence, as well as making better use of tailwinds to reduce flying time".

So, while we’ll have to wait a lot longer than "early 2017" for the entire Qantas domestic fleet to let you surf the net on a jet, you probably want to know when you can surf the net as you fly over Tibet.

Which means international Wi-Fi on Qantas craft.

I also bet that you might also want to know when QantasLink regional flights will get the in-flight net.

Well, don’t fret.

Qantas says it is "also currently in talks with suppliers to extend Wi-Fi services onto its international and regional (QantasLink) fleets to develop a product that can overcome a number of technical, performance and coverage challenges, including options for Wi-Fi over large stretches over water, which will deliver a quality service that meets the expectations of Qantas’ customers".

So, what we have is words instead of Wi-Fi waves for now, but from early 2017 one aircraft will fly-high with Wi-Fi, and from 2017 onwards until 2018, the rest of the fleet will meet its connected destiny.

I can’t wait, except for the fact that I’ll have to, as you will too.

Until then, you can read about why you’ll definitely want a VPN when high in the sky, as I explored in my recent article entitled: "In-flight Wi-Fi the latest attack vector for cyber theft requires VPN protection."

Aussie wi fi 2


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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