Inflight Internet is a step closer for Australian travellers with Telstra trialling a new 4G system capable of delivering broadband speeds to domestic flights.
Curiously dubbed 'Skinet', the test network already has four dedicated mobile sites in operation covering most of the commercial air corridor between Sydney and Melbourne.
“We were able to successfully establish and maintain data connections, achieving a maximum data throughput of 15 Mbps, with an average throughput around 10 Mbps,” reveals Mike Wright, Telstra’s Executive Director, Networks.
Skywards-facing antennas at these 4G base stations beam signals to and from aircraft, which need to be fitted with a special 'shark fin' antenna to connect to the ground network.
Integration with a plane's own wi-fi network would also be necessary for passengers to use inflight Internet, however both Qantas and Virgin Australia already operate onboard wi-fi for their streaming entertainment services which could be used for internet access.
“We will look to do additional tests later this year and take those results into account as we explore the possible economics around building a nationwide, commercial LTE network in the sky,” Wright says.
With the network still in its early stages, a Qantas spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller that "it's not something we're considering at this point.
"We’ll certainly be watching these trials with interest, but our understanding is that it will be some time before a commercial product is available," the spokesperson added.
Virgin Australia has the same outlook, with "no current plans to introduce internet connectivity in the immediate future," a Virgin Australia spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller.
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