Qatar Airways is now serving up broadband above the clouds with the launch of its high-speed inflight Internet service modestly dubbed Super WiFi.
We tested the satellite service on one of Qatar's Boeing 777-300ER jets and were pleased see a very useable 5-8Mbps on the download side which made for zippy loading of webpages.
Those speeds are faster than most international aircraft WiFi and more on par with what you might get at your local cafe hotspot (uploads were more variable, from 0.32Mbps to 5Mbps).
Qatar is now fitting its Super WiFi kit - powered by Inmarsat's GX Aviation inflight broadband system – across its Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 fleets, and all passengers will be offered their first hour of high-speed surfing for free.
After that, we're told, there's the option to buy unlimited usage for the rest of your flight for just US$10.
"Business travellers in particular will be able to maximise their ‘office in the sky’ with seamless continuity," says Qatar Airways CEO His Excellency Mr Akbar Al Baker.
PREVIOUS [February 12, 2018] | Qatar Airways is testing a high-speed inflight Internet system known as Super WiFi, with one of the airline's new Boeing 777-300ER Qsuite jets not only fitted out with the new kit but offering it free to passengers.
There's no indication it'll stay that way – we're waiting to hear back from Qatar Airways for more details on the tech trial, which Australian Business Traveller believes is being run on selected aircraft.
(We actually filed this article from 35,000 feet over the edge of Western Australia, on the inaugural Qatar Airways flight between Doha and Canberra.)
The free Super WiFi service is offered by Qatar Airways in partnership with Qatari telco Ooordeoo and uses the Inmarsat satellite network.
During our flight, download speeds fluctuated around 5-8Mbps, making it quite usable as a modest broadband service and on par with what you'd expect from the local cafe hotspot.
(Upload speeds were more variable, from 0.32Mbps to 5Mbps.)
Web pages were fairly zippy to load, much more so than you’d expect from international WiFi service which typically has slower connections that some domestic services (by way of comparison, the domestic Qantas and Virgin Australia WiFi services deliver around 15Mbps).
In fact, partnered with the Boeing 777-300ER's Qsuites, it was rather like having an office above the clouds.
Although email, Web and social media worked fine, we couldn't connect to cloud services such as Dropbox or streaming sites including YouTube, Netflix, Hulu or even Spotify – giving us reason to suspect that access to these 'bandwidth vampires' has been temporarily disabled for the trial.
There was a brief period of drop-out as we flow over southern tip of India, as the country's telecommunications authority currently bans all WiFi in Indian airspace – although this may soon change, providing reliable a Internet connection from start to finish of your journey.
Qatar Airways' Oryx inflight WiFi service usually costs from US$5 per hour (with a 30MB limit) to US$20 for the entire flight (with a 200MB limit), although there's a free 15 minute sampler to whet your appetite and enable a bunch of boastful social media posts.
We'll update this article with more details on the Super WiFi trial, availability and rollout when we hear back from Qatar Airways.