Qantas cancels this week's launch of free inflight Internet

Qantas cancels this week's launch of free inflight Internet

Qantas has cancelled plans to debut its Qantas WiFi inflight Internet service this week, including a media launch and test flight of the service from 11am Monday 27 March.

The airline has cited 'stability issues' with the satellite-based service, in what is the second delay to a launch originally slated for the end of 2016 and then February 2017.

"We’ve been testing in-flight WiFi for several weeks and the performance has been strong" Qantas said in a statement issued to media this afternoon.

"We were preparing to open it up to media and customers this week as we continue our fine-tuning over the next few months, but some stability issues have emerged that we need to fix before customers can use it."

Any issues with the satellite-based service would be the last thing Qantas needed to happen during a test flight scheduled for 11am Monday which was to carry many members of Australia's technology media.

Qantas says it is "working with NBN and ViaSat to fix these issues very soon. We remain on-track for a broader roll out to the Qantas Domestic fleet from mid-2017.”

PREVIOUS | Get ready to stay connected above the clouds, with Qantas launching its Qantas WiFi inflight Internet service next week.

The airline will host a special invitation-only charter flight for media on Monday March 27 (flight number QF6160 and aircraft registration VH-XZB, if you must know), taking off at 11am for a two-hour preview of the satellite service before its switched on for all travellers.

A special guest on the flight will be Dr Terry Percival, who helped create today's WiFi standard at the CSIRO.

Qantas is also adding streaming service Stan as a content partner on the WiFi-equipped Boeing 737 alongside Foxtel, Netflix and Spotify, so there'll be plenty to choose from when you're up in the air.

That Boeing 737 will spend most of its time darting along popular east coast routes between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane as the sole WiFi-equipped plane in the Qantas fleet until the second half of the year, when it'll be joined by an Airbus A330 doing mainly east-west runs.

Qantas will then begin to roll out the same satellite technology to the rest of its domestic Airbus A330 and Boeing 737 fleet, although no decision has been made on similar upgrades for the regional Boeing 717, Fokker 100 and Bombardier Dash 8 jets of  QantasLink.

Recent real-world tests of the Qantas WiFi system have delivered typical download speeds between 7Mbps and 12Mbps to each connected device, providing ample overhead for streaming HD video content.

The airline previously hoped to begin public access to the Boeing 737's inflight Internet in February, but said ongoing testing was necessary to reduce signal lag and buffering.

"It’s quite a technical thing to do when you are trying to maintain a constant, high-bandwidth connection with a satellite as you’re travelling at 900 kilometres per hour".

Australian Business Traveller will be on board Monday's media flight and (hopefully) live-blogging our own first-hand experience of Qantas WiFi.

PREVIOUS | Qantas will flick the switch on its free inflight Internet service next month as the airline begins 'technology trials' on a Boeing 737-800 jet.

Passengers stepping aboard the Boeing 737 on its domestic flights will be able to connect their laptop, tablet or smartphone to a WiFi hotspot and jump online for what Qantas promises will be a broadband experience good enough for streaming movies and live TV.

The upgraded Boeing 737 fitted with the 'Qantas Wi-Fi' service will be seen darting along popular east coast routes between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with perhaps the odd east-west crossing (a 4+ hour journey where the ability to work online or just watch up with the latest Netflix show could come in very handy).

But before you ask: Qantas is unlikely to promote those 'sky-high WiFi' flights in advance due to the operational need to swap aircraft between routes (and with a fleet of some 75 Boeing 737s that leaves scope for a lot of swapping).

The Boeing 737 will connect to the NBN Co's pair of Sky Muster satellites which take all of Australia under their wing.

Each SkyMuster satellite blankets Australia with 101 'spot beams'

How fast?

The Sky Muster birds pump out fast Ka-band signals which Qantas technology partner ViaSat says will deliver a 12Mbps pipeline to each connected device on the plane, ViaSat tells Fairfax Media.

That's about the same clip as the fastest ADSL2+ home or office Internet services, and more than twice what's needed to watch Netflix in high definition.

“The technology we’re using makes us confident that we’ll be able to provide a fast internet connection to passengers" a Qantas spokesman told Australian Business Traveller.

"It will be enough to comfortably stream video and given we’re offering it for free, we expect take-up to be strong”.

A domestic Airbus A330 jet will be wired up – or rather, unwired up – around the middle of the year and expand the trial the Australia's transcontinental trek as part of a nine-month "proof of concept" test which will run through to September.

Qantas' initial plans to launch the 'public passenger' phase of the trial in December 2016 were delayed due to an extended testing period for the technology.

The airline still intends to upgrade its entire domestic Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 fleets with the necessary technology, which includes a satellite antenna housed in a streamlined fibreglass radome on top of the fuselage, towards the rear of the aircraft.

Up next: international flights?

Expanding the inflight Internet service to international flights could follow, using ViaSat's global network to keep connected across the Tasman and en route to Asia, the Americas and Europe.

It's generally accepted that there is a greater appetite for inflight Internet on domestic flights – especially on Australia's transcontinental routes – than international flights, especially since around half of Qantas' international serves involve an overnight leg to Australia, which sees minimal demand because most passengers would rather sleep than surf the Web.

In late 2012 Qantas scrapped plans for Internet access on its flagship Airbus A380 fleet, citing a lacklustre response from travellers across a nine-month trial on selected superjumbo routes where the uptake was less than than 5%.

 

37 Comments

  • Serg

    Serg

    18 Jan, 2017 11:52 am

    Free and with ADSL speed? I love it! Curiosity though - will they block any services like SKYPE?

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    Bellthorpe

  • Bellthorpe

    Bellthorpe

    19 Jan, 2017 02:47 am

    Skype? God, I hope not ...

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  • mviy

    mviy

    18 Jan, 2017 12:14 pm

    One article said it would be limited to 20Mbps for the entire plane during the trial. If true speeds won't be great.


    12Mbps per device would be fantastic (it that's dedicated per device).

    I do like being able to switch off when on a plane though.

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  • Dave

    Grannular

    18 Jan, 2017 12:38 pm

    I read this as well. Would be good for clarification

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  • AJW

    AJW

    18 Jan, 2017 02:55 pm

    Read elsewhere it is 12mb/s dedicated per device.


    But not really sure how it is possible. The whole satellite has total capacity of 80gb/s, there are two satellites so that is enough to provide 13,000 people with 12mb/s. 

    But that also includes people on the ground too.

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  • ajobbins

    ajobbins

    18 Jan, 2017 01:30 pm

    12mbit per passenger?? That would mean around 2Gbps connection to the plane was needed for a QF B738 - I thought the Ku2 band Satellite technology maxed out around 70Mbit?


    Are they sure it's not 12Mbit per aircraft??

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  • ajobbins

    ajobbins

    18 Jan, 2017 01:43 pm

    Hmmm, it's KA they are using no KU - but still I think that's only 100mbit or so to the plane. So you don't get many users streaming nextflix on a busy flight to saturate that. 

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  • David Flynn

    David

    18 Jan, 2017 02:00 pm

    From SMH: ViaSat exec says "ViaSat has provided Qantas a 12 megabits per second [Mbps] service level agreement to each connected device on the plane."

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  • ajobbins

    ajobbins

    18 Jan, 2017 02:04 pm

    Considering SYD<>MEL is the 4th busiest air route in the world and only a 700km trip, I'm surprised they didn't do ground based in flight connectivity a while ago - surely the business case would have stacked up for business travelers wanting connectivity - I would have paid a nominal amount (Say $10-15 per flight) for that.

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  • Mal

    Mal

    18 Jan, 2017 02:21 pm

    Telstra trialled ground-based 4G a few years ago, there's a story on AusBT about it, but while speeds were 10-15Mbps there were two reasons it wasn't rolled out.

    1. Actual window in which it could be used during flight was 60 minutes, not many people willing to pay just for an hour of being connected when they have smartphones they can switch on as soon as they land.
    2. Cost of outfitting aircraft would be high but those aircraft could only be used on the SYD-MEL route, but airlines juggle many aircraft around the network so even just outfitting a bunch as their special SYD-MEL subfleet wouldn't really work.

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  • tronixstuff

    tronixstuff

    18 Jan, 2017 02:49 pm

    Ground-based connectivity is often used. More often than not the tool next to me is sending SMSs during flight.

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  • AL0126

    AL0126

    18 Jan, 2017 02:18 pm

    Another call for clarification. 12 or 20 Mbps for the whole plane would be absolute rubbish - maybe two or three users might be able to stream video, any more and it's only good for loading websites or texting (and it will probably slow to a crawl once 20+ users attempt to use it simultaneously even for text-related reasons).


    12 Mbps for every user on the plane is another matter, but that is certainly a bold and dangerous claim to be making, considering the B737 being wired up for this service (VH-XZB according to the SMH) has 174 seats. You'd need 2.088 Gbps to service every single seat, assuming everybody was streaming at 12 Mbps at the same time and only using a single device. An SLA would mean they'd need to guarantee this 12 Mbps to each user, which honestly just doesn't sound right. Normally there will be a certain contention ratio as we've seen with other airlines, and with NBN only giving ground customers 25 Mbps, I doubt they would spare much more than that to one plane, let alone several in the future across QF and VA.

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  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    18 Jan, 2017 02:43 pm

    I hope Qantas finds some way to promote the Qantas WiFi plane so people can book on it. It would have been good if the one they upgraded was the RetroRoo, that way you'd know at a glance if you were going to be on the plane with Internet access.

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  • daschok

    daschok

    18 Jan, 2017 03:13 pm

    We already know it's VH-XZB. You can look here to see where the plane is so you'd know: https://www.flightradar24.com/data/aircraft/vh-xzb

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  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    18 Jan, 2017 03:38 pm

    Yes but that's not quite the same thing as looking out the window of the lounge for example and knowing you're on RetroRoo, most people don't bother with looking at or chasing registration numbers.

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  • traveller99

    traveller99

    18 Jan, 2017 03:18 pm

    "In late 2012 Qantas scrapped plans for Internet access on its flagship Airbus A380 fleet"

    This was because the pricing was ridiculous.  It was, and I kid you not, about $5 for 1MB and about $15 for 10MB.  Yes 1MB and 10MB.

    It is no wonder there was no interest.

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  • qickdraw

    qickdraw

    18 Jan, 2017 04:03 pm

    The promise is indeed for 12MB to each pax - but that is caveated by an estimation of the average number of pax expected to be using the service, as the onboard modem simply cannot handle 12MB to every single seat.

    It's the same basic contract KPIs that Viasat agreed with Finnair (among others) and speaks more to their confidence in getting the satellite bandwidth more than anything. That's going to be the real area of interest as the NBN services roll out on Skymuster1. With all Ka bandwidth from that satellite being prioritized for NBN customers, it will be interesting to see how they maintain that KPI as they roll back to Ku around the same time as the demand for the service ramps up...

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    David

  • Bellthorpe

    Bellthorpe

    19 Jan, 2017 02:48 am

    "caveated"? When did "caveat" become a verb?

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  • qickdraw

    qickdraw

    19 Jan, 2017 09:50 am

    Never, but as the contract is already signed it then becomes appropriate to use the past tense suffix -ed. I suppose my actual error was in using 'is' instead of 'was'...

    :-)

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  • Longreach

    Longreach

    21 Jan, 2017 02:16 pm

    It is in fact a verb-form in Latin, and that's good enough for me.

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  • thisispete

    thisispete

    18 Jan, 2017 04:05 pm

    Interesting.


    QANTAS customers getting access to the NBN (albeit via Satellite) before most of Australia.

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  • petercr

    petercr

    18 Jan, 2017 04:14 pm

    Saw -XZB parked at gate 7 at T3 in Sydney on Sunday afternoon and noticed the large hump up top... It's about 40cm high by about 1.5m long. Should have taken a photo... 

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  • Dee Thom

    Dee Thom

    18 Jan, 2017 04:43 pm

    I presume that connection is free for all pax, economy included, not just J pax.

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  • bagpuss

    bagpuss

    18 Jan, 2017 06:35 pm

    I wouldnt get your hopes up.

    Who I work for have Sky Muster in regional areas and it's not what it's cracked up to be.

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  • brad2k

    brad2k

    18 Jan, 2017 07:59 pm

    "…most passengers would rather sleep than surf the Web."

    Uh, what? Most economy passengers would love to sleep on 14-hour flights, but many cannot manage more than a few hours, so there's a significant amount of time where people would happily browse the Web.

    United offers Wi-Fi on almost all of their flights; even though it's slow, I see tons of people wiling the time away, if only on WhatsApp.

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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    19 Jan, 2017 07:49 am

    I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not, people skyping while I'm taking a nap?, streaming movies is a positive, checking emails is a positive, maybe Qantas can have a quite end of the plane and a noisey end.

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  • PunditShafton

    PunditShafton

    19 Jan, 2017 09:56 pm

    I will be all caught up with Narcos and House of Cards :)

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  • Alex Moris

    Alex Moris

    20 Jan, 2017 08:04 am

    Really?! Qantas seem to think this a revolutionary invention they are introducing, when in fact Emirates, Qatar, Etihad all the true premium airlines have offered inflight WIFI for years. As always QF is behind the eight ball.

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  • Jon

    walaj

    23 Jan, 2017 09:48 am

    There is a big difference between the ViaSat and SITAonair (used by emirates) services. The proposition and bandwidth are very different.

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  • kimshep

    kimshep

    21 Mar, 2017 11:26 am

    Let's not forget across the Pacific - UA, AA and DL already offer this as well. And yes, this 'revolutionary' QF option on international will - in all probability - take another 2 years to be fitted to the A380's to LAX and/or DFW.

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  • Steve987

    Steve987

    21 Jan, 2017 09:15 am

    The first time I sit next to someone having a Skype call is also going to be the first time I seriously consider VA!


    Surely they will block it?

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  • Jon

    walaj

    23 Jan, 2017 09:44 am

    The tech used by ViaSat allows each connection to share the available bandwidth, so if there is enough capacity every device can have 12mbps. If there isn't, various options are available to shape users - tiered plans, first class priority, application shaping/blocking etc. the main issue to handle is the latency - Skype calls could be poor not because of the bandwidth but the delays in the conversation. Netflix works well apparently.

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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    20 Mar, 2017 02:21 pm

    I wonder if a VPN will work?

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  • gumshoe

    gumshoe

    20 Mar, 2017 04:54 pm

    Does this mean I'll now be able to hear passengers streaming loud video games and talking on Skype gee I'll look forward to that.

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  • fallingflat

    fallingflat

    20 Mar, 2017 06:44 pm

    given there's nothing stopping customers from playing loud noises from their devices without wifi, i can't see how wifi will change this.

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  • UpUpAndAway

    UpUpAndAway

    25 Mar, 2017 05:42 pm

    Qantas is working with the NBN Co, I have never seen anyone work successfully with the NBN Co.

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  • superflyer

    superflyer

    25 Mar, 2017 10:48 pm

    Erm, what were they doing all last year during the testing phase?

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26 Mar, 2017 02:30 pm

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