Qantas is preparing to begin a broader rollout of its onboard wi-fi service, following a successful trial on its first equipped aircraft.
The carrier installed the wifi system on a single Boeing 737 in November, and after a period of testing began trialing it with customers in April. The program will move from trial phase to wider deployment in late September, Qantas said.
A second 737 has now been fitted for wifi, and it will be installed on another eight aircraft before September. However, the service will not be available to customers on these additional aircraft until then.
The airline is aiming to have all of its domestic 737s and Airbus A330s – about 80 aircraft – equipped for wifi by late 2018. Qantas is using ViaSat’s Ka-band satellite system. It intends to offer the service for free.
More than 40,000 passengers have used the onboard wifi so far during the trial. An average of 32% of passengers on the 737 have been connecting to the internet during flight. This is significantly higher than the 5% of passengers who used onboard internet during a previous Qantas trial of a different system on A380s in 2012. The carrier said it expects usage rates of 30-50% for the new system.
Reliability of the system has improved to 98% during the trial, Qantas said. Download speeds have also “edged higher” through the trial, and are now “routinely above” 12 megabits per second.
Qantas has said it is investigating the possibility of extending onboard wifi to its international and regional fleets. Rival Virgin Australia has also begun onboard wifi trials with the intention of a broader rollout.