Qantas's First Plane With Inflight Wi-Fi Is Already Flying

The first Qantas aircraft with inflight wi-fi — that Australia's national carrier airline plans to offer for free — is already up and flying commercial service around the country, but you can't browse the 'net from your economy seat just yet. Testing of the service is still underway, and it'll be switched on for public consumption early next year.

Qantas's Boeing 737-800 VH-XZB is currently running to Port Moresby and back to Brisbane on the QF57 route, but it doesn't have inflight wi-fi enabled. Engineers from Qantas and ViaSat, the satellite hardware provider making Qantas's wi-fi happen, are still running a couple of months of tests both on the ground and in the air.

The hardware took Qantas engineers 900 man hours to install in the 737, with the satellite antenna radome mounted on top of the aircraft and with a string of wireless access points hidden away inside the body of the plane to evenly distribute a strong Wi-Fi signal. The same hardware will eventually be rolled out to the carrier's entire fleet of Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 domestic aircraft, with installation starting in mid-2017 and expected to be fully completed during 2018.

Qantas says its wi-fi will be up to 10 times faster than competitors' installations internationally, and will allow for "the ability to styream movies, TV shows, the latest news bulletins and live sports" for passengers as well as real-time live weather data for pilots to optimise flying conditions.

Inflight wi-fi might even be extended to QantasLink regional and Qantas international aircraft in the future, if Qantas' supplier ViaSat can develop a product that can overcome "a number of technical, performance and coverage challenges" including consistent connection to satellite internet over large stretches of water. [Qantas]

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