Qantas has completed its first real-world 'tech trial' of the airline's inflight Internet system, with a planeload of passengers hammering away at the satellite connection during a three hour flight along the east coast between Sydney and Brisbane.
The special charter flight came ahead of the Boeing 737 starting public trials in the coming weeks, and the results were promising, with Qantas reporting typical download speeds between 7Mbps and 12Mbps to each connected device.
And with the plane packed tip to tail with volunteer Qantas staff, each using at least one device and many juggling two or more bits of kit ranging from smartphones to laptops, that meant 100% connectivity for over 200 devices.
That's certainly more than the average load of any flight, even once the novelty of sky-high WiFi wears off, after which Qantas expects "an average of around 50% of the aircraft connected via a single device at any one time."
Each passenger on the test flight was assigned different tasks during the test, from downloading apps to streaming movies and music, sending emails and even testing the content filters which are designed to block sites with – ahem – questionable content.
This particular Boeing 737 has also been flying regular commercial routes but with its four wireless hotspots hidden from the public, although a few savvy Qantas staff have been hunkered over their iPads over their down the back checking connectivity, speed and performance at different altitudes and on various routes.
This will change in the coming weeks, when the crew flick the WiFi switch – and yes, there is just such a switch – to serve up fast and free Internet to all passengers.
Australian Business Traveller will be on board the first public trial of the Qantas WiFi jet and (hopefully) live-blogging our own first-hand experience.