Qantas' inflight WiFi trials peg the needle at 12Mbps per device

By David Flynn, February 21 2017
Qantas' inflight WiFi trials peg the needle at 12Mbps per device

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.


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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2013

Total posts 390

Very impressive!


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 352

Now that's impressive. A full load of passengers, everybody online and 7-12Mbps per seat. Really makes inflight Internet something you can actually use!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 699

Yeh its real impressive and I can't get my head around it. So a loaded aircraft (with everyone online) would need to have 1260mbps bandwidth (assuming 180 pax onboard and 7mbps per seat) or 1.26gbps per aircraft. Now remember each NBN satellite (and there are 2) has only 80gbps capacity.

These figures are technically impossible unless actual bandwidth per seat is a lot lower. I've even seen articles which have said that for the trial total aircraft bandwidth would be limited to 20mbps. So it's either Qantas is going to use up a lot of bandwidth from the satellites or real world results are going to be extremely slow. 


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 352

Henrus, if your maths says the results are impossible but we're seeing these same results reported,then your maths or more likely the assumptions behind them are wrong, and the articles stating a 20Mbps limit for the plane would probably be wrong too. JetBlue uses the same technology provider and has dynamic speed adjustments where the speed goes up when you need it and then comes way back down to a slower 'idle' when you don't. This is probably what QF is doing. I'm sure AusBT will ask these questions at the media launch and we can get a firm answer.

26 Nov 2016

Total posts 7

"Systems and methods for supporting more flexible coverage areas and spatial capacity assignments using satellite communications systems are disclosed. Antenna elements are arranged in one or more phased arrays. The phased arrays may be used to receive uplink communications, transmit downlink communications, or both receive uplink communications and transmit downlink communications. Beam forming networks (BFN's) associated with the one or more phased arrays may be dynamic, allowing for movement of the locations of the receive beams, the transmit beams, or both the receive beams and transmit beams. The beams may then “hop” from location to location according to a predefined or dynamic hopping pattern. In some embodiments, the hopping patterns may be time-varying and may be changed or updated on-the-fly. " -- Viasat's patent.

It's really more about adjusting the satellite capacity accordingly to the planes flying, not how someone uses WiFi during the flight.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2540

And here I was, thinking it was magic... :P

05 May 2016

Total posts 617

So long as it's stable and doesn't drop up much if at all during the flight it would be great though I like having downtime when flying.

18 Jan 2017

Total posts 51

A service can report a speed although doesn't mean it's actually true as compression techniques would be used.

Though it's more about latency than throughput.
Having one plane with a hundred passengers using the service is one thing.  Having hundred's of planes with hundred's of passengers using the service is another.

09 Aug 2016

Total posts 7

Unless you plan on playing a multiplayer game game then latency won't impact much. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2013

Total posts 132

Hopefully no dropouts across The Bight. Last thing you want Perth-bound is a Netflix glitch. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Apr 2012

Total posts 9

Considering the Virgin Lounges (ie, on the ground) are typically at around 4Mb/2Mb or less, that's pretty decent 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 316

Sounds great, I can easily watch my Foxtel Go on my IPad at those speeds, I can watch the PGA golf on my Monday morning red eye out of Townsville. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 441

Will be interesting to see what the results will be later on the trans-con A330s.

Qantas Platinum

04 Dec 2012

Total posts 48

Seems that Qantas knows what they're doing. Perhaps they can take over the NBN?

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