Comfortable seating, good coffee and satisfying snacks: they’re three must-haves for any airport lounge.
But can you rely on the free Wi-Fi in airport lounges for business-grade internet access?
On a recent mid-morning visit to Sydney Airport’s Qantas business lounge, Australian Business Traveller ran some speed tests (using Speedtest.net) on free in-lounge wireless as well as mobile broadband services from Optus, Telstra and Vodafone to see which is best for the lounge-bound business traveller.
Qantas provides free in-lounge wireless supplied by Telstra – and as any frequent flyer can attest, it can be a very hit-and-miss affair. Some days while you might be able to connect to the hotspot, data trickles through at a rate that makes dial-up look speedy.
Happily, on the day we visited it delivered a reliable connection.
While at first slow to connect to, download speeds averaged a solid 5Mbps: ample for web surfing, email and streaming media.
Just don’t try sending large files to services like YouSendIt, as the upload speeds averaged a mere 0.6Mbps. If a significant part of your online work relies on uploading you’ll need to look at a dedicated 3G mobile broadband service.
The fastest of these is the Telstra Next G network, for which we used the Telstra Ultimate USB modem.
Speeds averaged a zippy 12Mbps, more than double what the lounge’s free wifi was capable of delivering. And at 2Mbps, upload speeds were also far more usable.
Note that using an iPhone as a Wi-Fi hotspot doesn’t deliver the same results. During our testing an iPhone running on Telstra's Next G network averaged 2.5Mbps and topped out at 4Mbps, with uploads at 1.5Mbps.
Vodafone’s 5Mbps download rate was on par with the free lounge wifi, but with upload speeds pegged around 1.5Mbps.
Optus delivered widely and wildly varying results, with sessions swinging from 2Mbps to 6Mbps for downloads, although uploads remained pegged around 1.5Mbps.