For domestic business travellers, 2018 is shaping up to be The Year of WiFi.
It's the year that has seen inflight Internet take off – quite literally so – as Qantas and Virgin Australia outfit their domestic jets with satellite tech which lets you stay online while you're en route.
How many domestic aircraft are WiFi-enabled?
The Boeing 737 is the workhorse of Qantas and Virgin Australia's domestic fleets, ranging from the east coast's busy and lucrative 'golden triangle' (also sometimes called the 'golden boomerang') arcing between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne through to some transcontinental flights.
But how likely is is that you'll set foot onto a Boeing 737 sporting WiFi?
As of mid-July Qantas has 30 Boeing 737s fitted with high-speed Internet out of a total domestic fleet of 68, so that's almost a 50/50 chance that your next Qantas Boeing 737 flight will be on a WiFi jet.
Virgin Australia's tally is 24 upgraded Boeing 737s from a domestic fleet of 69, giving travellers a 1-in-3 chance of stepping onto a WiFi jet.
Both Qantas and Virgin Australia expect the majority of their domestic Boeing 737s will have been upgraded to WiFi by the end of 2018 – closing the gap to the point where the availability of WiFi becomes an expectation and the lack of it a frustration – with fleet-wide fitout by early 2019.
When it comes to the Airbus A330s most often seen on east-west flights, Qantas expects its first red-tailed A330 with WiFi will take to the skies later this month, with most of the 12-strong domestic A330 fleet getting wired (or should that be unwired?) by year's end.
Virgin Australia says it won't be fitting out its fleet of six A330s – only four of which are rostered onto Australian routes – until the beginning of next year, stretching through to mid-2019.
How fast is Australian inflight WiFi?
Having WiFi is one thing – having a fast (and stable) connection that's usable is something else.
Fortunately, the satellite technology used by Qantas and Virgin Australia is capable of delivering a reliable 10-15Mbps to your laptop, tablet or smartphone.
That's as fast as most home ADSL 2+ connections – which means you're enjoying high-speed broadband in the sky, and sufficient to stream HD video if you're so inclined.
The main difference here is the cost of staying connecting above the clouds.
High-speed WiFi is free on all domestic Qantas flights. Connect to the aircraft's hotspot, enter your name and seat number, and you're online.
Virgin Australia charges for high-speed inflight Internet on domestic flights, with prices kicking off at $8.99 per flight on short routes such as Brisbane-Sydney and Sydney-Melbourne. That'll get you the bandwidth you need for streaming content or downloading large files.
If your online needs are more modest, Virgin offers what it terms as a 'standard' connection of 1Mbps for free. This is suitable "simple Web browsing, email, instant messaging and social media."