NBN in talks with Qantas, Virgin Australia on inflight internet

By David Flynn, November 28 2014
NBN in talks with Qantas, Virgin Australia on inflight internet

The National Broadband Network could provide inflight Internet for domestic Qantas and Virgin Australia services next year, according to NBN Co chief Bill Morrow.

Speaking at a business lunch in Melbourne yesterday, Morrow revealed that talks are already underway with Qantas and Virgin Australia, reported The Herald-Sun.

The NBN proposal centres on two satellites to be launched late next year to allow remote communities access to broadband Internet.

The birds will use new Ka-band technology to deliver a claimed 12Mbps download speeds and 1Mbps uploads, which would also be available to aircraft tapping into the signals.

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia already operate onboard wi-fi for their streaming entertainment services, which could also be used for Internet access to passenger's laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Telstra trials 4G for planes

Earlier this year Telstra began trialling a new 4G system capable of delivering broadband speeds to domestic flights, with four dedicated mobile sites covering most of the commercial air corridor between Sydney and Melbourne.

The system was able to reach peak speeds to the aircraft of 15Mbps, with an average throughput around 10Mbps – equivalent to a mid-range home or office ADSL2+ connection.

Read: Telstra tests 4G inflight Internet for Sydney-Melbourne route

Although inflight Internet is commonplace in the USA and on many international flights, Australia is running well behind in the sky-high surfing stakes.

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.

"Whilst customers who used the Wi-Fi service told us that they valued the option to connect in flight, overall the trial has demonstrated a lower than expected take-up of the service, particularly on overnight flights where sleep was their priority" explained a Qantas spokeswoman.

The NBN Co, Qantas and Virgin Australia have been approached for additonal comment.

Read: Australian Business Traveller reviews inflight Internet services on Virgin AmericaEtihad and Singapore Airlines.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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