Tuesday, 04 July 2017 15:07

Qantas Wi-Fi a success, expands to second aircraft

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It's almost three months since Qantas switched on fast, free in-flight Wi-Fi. The carrier now has lots of insights into passenger adoption of the tech and has fitted the tech into a second plane.

Qantas launched its fast, free in-flight Wi-Fi on 7 April, enabling the technology on Boeing 737-800 aircraft VH-XZB.

This plane has delivered a pleasant surprise to 3500 passengers each week up and down the east coast of Australia, delivering high-speed Internet to travellers fortunate enough to find this plane as their vessel.

The Qantas Wi-Fi rollout team has taken notice of the data it is amassing on just how many people are taking up Wi-Fi access, and how well it works for them. These findings have been published in Qantas' Roo Tales.

The data is important to help Qantas' team test and refine the product with the goal it will eventually make its way to the company's domestic fleet of 80 B737s and A330s by late 2018. Qantas selected ViaSat's Ka-band satellite system to tap into nbn's wide coverage and high speeds, as opposed to other in-flight Wi-Fi options in use in the USA which provide a slower, and less versatile experience.

Pleasingly, the verdict so far is good. Qantas reports 32% of passengers log on at some stage in the flight. This is a vastly improved result from Qantas' previous trial of paid, and slower, Wi-Fi on the A380 back in 2012. In fact, the carrier reports the industry standard of Wi-Fi take-up is less than 10%.

Thus, while 32% is already impressive, Qantas is expecting up to 50% of passengers to connect during a flight as they continue to roll the technology out. The biggest contributing factor to this will be the price – i.e. free. In iTWire's own experience with the in-flight Wi-Fi, the download performance was mostly solid, allowing e-mail, Slack, Skype chat, and NetFlix viewing among other activities. The ViaSat Ka-band performance allows real work and entertainment options, making Qantas' Wi-Fi a genuinely useful experience.

This is further evidenced by Qantas' measurements showing 60% of passengers are using multiple apps and multiple websites.

Since the service was launched, fine-tuning has now seen reliability improve to greater than 98% meaning fewer dropouts as the aircraft crosses satellite beams at 850kmph.

Download speeds are now routinely above 12 megabits per second, edging higher as the trial continues.

Survey results show 88% of customers give Qantas Wi-Fi the thumbs up, showing high levels of satisfaction.

The most time is spent using email and Web browsing, in particular, news sites, then social media, streaming video and music, along with messaging and on-line shopping.

A second B737, VH-XZC, has now been fitted with the latest ViaSat equipment and Qantas says up to eight more will be fitted out between now and late September. At this time the in-flight Wi-Fi will move from trial stage to a broader rollout.

While the aircraft will be equipped, the Wi-Fi won't be switched on until that date while Qantas continues to test the technology.

Qantas states that when the domestic fleet of B737s and A330s are all fitted out by late 2018 this will give an estimated 15 million passengers a year the opportunity to send a whole lot of emails and selfies from their office in the air!

2017 04 07 12.06.46

QANTAS B738 VH XZB Wi Fi launch

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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