Qantas’s new free wi-fi will debut on one of its domestic Boeing 737-800s next week but it will be the second half of the year before another plane similarly equipped plane joins it
Real-world tests on the airline’s system have produced download speeds for individual passengers of between seven megabits-per-second (Mbps) and 12 Mbps. A smart TV running at 3-4 Mbps comfortably displays streaming service Netflix in high definition without buffering.
The airline had already signed up Netflix, Foxtel and music service Spotify as partners and announced Monday that local service Stan would join the fold with an offer of a 90-day subscription that will be included in the fare.
Passengers flying on the airline’s wi-fi enabled B737 will receive a code that will allow them to log-in to Stan’s library of films and TV shows on the plane and on the ground using up to three devices during the three-month period.
The partner content will be available from mid-April after the wif-fi system goes online for customers next week.
Qantas is using the faster Ka band technology, rather the Ku band system that passengers have found frustrating on some airlines, accessed through the NBN’s Sky Muster satellites. The airline has stress tested it under a full load and says it will be 10 times faster than the slower system.
The airline said one of the reasons there had been so much testing was that it was working to reduce 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,’’ the airline said in a statement.
“Even when we switch Wi-Fi on for customer use, we know there’s still more fine-tuning for us to do.
“That’s why we’re deliberately waiting about six months before rolling it out to the rest of our domestic A330 and B737 aircraft.’’
The B737 will operate mainly on East Coast routes and the service is expected to be available on the entire domestic fleet some time in 2018.
Meanwhile, the airline is calling on tech firms to help with its innovation program through a new initiative called AVRO Accelerator.
Named after the airline’s first aircraft, the program gives start-ups a chance to work with Qantas Group mentors on ideas to streamline the travel experience, design smarter ways of working, unlock the potential of new technologies and help solve business problems.
Up to 10 teams will ultimately be chosen for the 12-week program which was designed in partnership with Australian corporate accelerator Slingshot.
“Customer needs keep evolving and the limits of technology are constantly expanding, so there is a clear business imperative for us to find new ways to improve how we operate,’’ Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said.
“We’re looking forward to opening up our doors to ideas that are different, challenging and truly innovative. Ideas that could benefit from the expertise and scale at a company like Qantas to refine them and make them a reality.’’
The program will look at areas such as creating seamless journeys, building connected platforms and ways of making the airline more efficient without impacting safety.