Virgin Australia will launch the second stage of its inflight wireless entertainment system next month, with passengers able to play streaming video and music directly on their own tablets, laptops and smartphones rather than rely on airline-provided Samsung tablets.
The airline will begin a month-long trial of the technology "in the next three to four weeks", Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller, "and is designed for your iPhone, iPad, or laptop to access directly", although a limited number of Samsung Galaxy tablets will still be carried on each flight.
A spokesperson for Virgin Australia has confirmed that the streaming signal will be free for all travellers who bring their own devices.
"Subject to it being successful – which we expect it to be – we'll start the (fleet-wide) fit-out round about February, and by the end of 2013 we'll have a large part of our fleet done."
As to which aircraft will see the upgrade, "Obviously we're going to do the aircraft without IFE first" Borghetti said, "and then the last aircraft to be done will be the 330s."
"Although they've got a very good (IFE) system in place, for product consistency we want to make sure they too have the WiFi."
The full roster of BYO devices is expected to include Apple and Android tablets and smartphones, all of which will use a free app to play the content, along with Windows and Mac notebooks.
Virgin will use Lufthansa Systems' BoardConnect technology, which was previously trialled by Qantas in its initial Q Streaming tests, although Qantas subsequently chose Panasonic's eXW system for its wider rollout.
Speaking with Australian Business Traveller earlier this year, Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti said he expected the wifi roll-out to happen "very quickly", as the process for installing Lufthansa BoardConnect in each aircraft isn't especially time-consuming.
"To fit an aircraft, you can do it overnight and it only takes two to three nights" Borghetti explained. "So when the aircraft's parked at night you do the work, and within two or three nights you've done an aeroplane."
"So effectively you can move very quickly and do the whole fleet... within 12 to 18 months."
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