Virgin Australia to debut streaming WiFi for BYO tech next month

By David Flynn, November 20 2012
Virgin Australia to debut streaming WiFi for BYO tech next month

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.

Want more on the Q Streaming? We've got a full video and review of the system plus a deeper dive into the technology itself.

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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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

25 May 2012

Total posts 582

I tested out this IFE on Sunday on a two-hour flight, and I wasn't terribly impressed with the available selection of content. The movies were decent, but I chose not to watch any of them because the flight was too short, while nothing interested me under the TV shows. As for the music and radio, I preferred to use my own iPhone to listen to my own music and podcasts.

Its a shame they don't have a wider selection of television episodes, as I feel that most of VA's flights (other than between the East Coast and WA, or North Queensland and Sydney/Melbourne) aren't long enough to watch a movie.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Frequent Flyer

28 May 2011

Total posts 81

I think the only galaxy tablets currently available rely on preloaded content.

Streaming can allow for much greater amounts of content than what could be stored on a tablet resulting in much more choice. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jul 2012

Total posts 43

works on my Android Sony Xperia Z1, but won't work on my ultrabook, Asus Zenbook. Can't find any troubleshooting info either, and yes, I have Silverlight installed, the latest version

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