technology

It has been a long time coming, so how does in-flight Wi-Fi stack up on a Qantas plane?

It has been a long time coming, so how does in-flight Wi-Fi stack up on a Qantas plane?

BE PREPARED. Qantas has switched on in-flight Wi-Fi for customers travelling on board an internet-capable Boeing 737-800, promising to offer fast, free connectivity on Australian domestic flights.

Following months of performance testing with global broadband services provider ViaSat and the NBN ‘Sky Muster’ satellite service, Wi-Fi is currently operating on just one Boeing 737 aircraft.

Customers will be able to test it out for themselves on some flights while the airline continues to fine tune the system.

Testing will be complete by the middle of the year and from there, installation of the technology is expected to begin on the domestic fleet of Airbus 330s and Boeing 737s with the rollout across 80 aircraft completed by the end of 2018.

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“In-flight Wi-Fi has been on our wish list for quite a while, but the sheer size of Australia meant it was hard to offer a service that was fast and reliable. The NBN has made it possible and we’re really pleased to be able to tap into this service,” said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.

Mr Joyce hosted a short charter flight over New South Wales, with passengers — mainly a media posse — testing out the system before it is officially switched ‘on’ for selected commercial flights from today.

“On flights between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, where we have a lot of business travellers, we expect the system to get a real work out with email and web browsing,” said Mr Joyce.

“We also know customers want down time, which is why we’ve partnered with streaming services like Foxtel and Stan so there’s no shortage of things to help people tune out.”

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The national carrier says that up to 15,000 Qantas customers per month will experience in-flight Wi-Fi during the initial period, increasing to around 15 million per year once the rollout to 80 domestic aircraft is complete.

Customer research commissioned by Qantas recently showed the most popular uses for Wi-Fi on domestic flights would be a mix of emails (52% of all respondents), general internet browsing (46%), streaming music/TV/movies (31%), social media (30%) and news (30%).

MY VERDICT:

Do you want the good news or the bad news? Well, no-one is allowed or permitted to make loud and raucous phone calls on the plane. YES!

But the bad news? We’ll probably be seeing more ‘live’ Instagram posts of clouds and shorelines from window seat flyers filling up our social media timelines.

Anyway, once we got into the air, around 10.40am, the free Wi-Fi kicked in. After you’d set your phone to aeroplane mode and hooked into the Qantas wireless system it was an easy-to-do connection.

But you had to make sure you had already downloaded any apps you wanted to use while on-board. And pretty much as soon as we took off, bang, there it was. Wi-Fi on!

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I had my phone and tablet in front of me and in the short time we were on the Sydney-to-Sydney test flight, I tried out everything I could. I posted to Twitter. Even uploaded an 8 second video to the Twittersphere.

I shared an Insta story (for the uninitiated, that includes video and there was no lag in getting it up.) I popped into my emails and sorted those out for a few minutes. I started to write a story. I Facebook-lived a snippet of the journey. I perused a couple of websites. I then picked up on a series I’m following on Netflix. I checked my emails. again. I retweeted something. Threw in a Snapchat. And so it went.

At 38,000 feet, I was getting 12mbs at one stage — which, according to tech fiends, is mighty impressive.

Even though you can’t use your actual ‘phone’ as a talkfest piece, I’m not sure how they are going to police people who choose to use Wi-Fi to video message or, dare we say, talk to someone, down here on planet earth.

As this flight was obviously full of people ‘working’ — there were cameras, journos, radio peeps and news crews- there was no time just to sit back and ‘be’, like many people usually do on a flight.

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That said, it did make me wonder what it will be like when the flight has a quieter cast list. Will we be hearing incessant phone beeps and notifications?

Will the occasional flyer attempt to Facetime their pals back home, or even worse, make, lovey-dovey, small-talk calls? Please say it won’t happen!

They are areas the crew will, no doubt, have to diplomatically tackle.

What I got out of the Wi-Fi test run is that there will be definitely three different types of Wi-Fi users. There’ll be business types who will use their airtime to address their inbox and seriously connect with their office or home. There’ll be people who just want to continue watching their favourite series whether it’s on Foxtel, Netflix, Stan or stream their music via Spotify.

Then there’ll be the social media maniacs who won’t stop tweeting, live-streaming, Instagramming and Snapchatting their way to wherever they’re going. Just hope you don’t sit next to one of them.

I mean, who really wants to live-stream their entire flight? Please say no!

OK, the whole Wi-Fi in the sky concept isn’t new with international carriers like Emirates, JetBlue, Norwegian, Turkish Airlines, Air China, Philippine Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Nok Air all in on the free Wi-Fi act.

For many flyers, Wi-Fi will be a godsend, if it’s used properly and not for the entire flight.

But for others, it may seem like their last place to escape the online space has been finally smashed.

Either way, it’s a huge technical leap for the flying ‘roo.

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Online Source: The NEWS

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