In-flight internet access in Australia sucks. Qantas spent some time testing the market, but eventually found that it wouldn't be used by enough people to make it economically viable. Sad face. Telstra, however, still sees the potential in sticking the internet onto your domestic plane flight, and is testing a new 4G network to facilitate connectivity.
It's called Telstra Skinet. Don't freak out.
Basically, it uses Telstra's existing towers to broadcast 4G signals to passing aircraft. Already, a test between Melbourne and Sydney yielded speeds of 15Mbps down, which is way faster than existing in-flight internet connections can manage.
Telstra isn't testing this on commercial airlines just yet, so don't freak out about phones being used on planes secretly. According to the AFR, Telstra tested the service on a Cessna propellor plane and a private jet between the two capital cities.
The service has been on the minds of Telstra engineers for a little while now, but technology hurdles kept it away from the realm of possibility until now, as the signal can reach much further into the atmosphere.
Because airlines wouldn't have to make partnerships with major satellite providers for the service, it'll likely be cheap to use too.
Unfortunately the service is around two years away from being available. [AFR]