Skift Take

With Qantas' decision, the question arises what other oneworld partners will do next. The Wi-Fi space race just heated up again, and it never even had time to cool down.

Qantas has announced its selection of ViaSat Ka-band connections to offer customers free high-speed connectivity staring next year.

ViaSat will tap into the NBN satellite network to supply the service over the Australian territory. Partnering with other satellite providers to supplement the coverage of its own satellite coverage is key to ViaSat’s global growth.

ViaSat will deliver speeds and capacity to Qantas sufficient for passengers to stream movies, and watch TV shows, news and live sports.

“The sheer size of the Australian landmass creates some significant challenges for in-flight connectivity but the recent launch of NBN’s satellite has opened up new opportunities that we plan to take advantage of with ViaSat’s help,” Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, says.

Joyce also hints at additional in-flight entertainment offerings along the lines offered by JetBlue and Virgin America using their own ViaSat high-speed connections.

“This kind of in-flight connectivity would also open up a lot of potential to improve in-flight entertainment, which we’re constantly looking to enhance,” he says. “As a premium carrier, delivering value for money to our customers is extremely important to us. That’s why we’ll be offering access to Wi-Fi for free.”

Qantas says it is also examining market options which would extend high-speed Wi-Fi service on its international and regional fleet. The airline will liaise with regulators on the certification and approval of the service.

“We bring deep in-flight Internet expertise to Qantas,” says Mark Dankberg, ViaSat’s Chairman and CEO of the contract with the Australian oneworld alliance partner. “Our experience is proven on 1,500 flights daily, with as many as 148 simultaneous active devices on any given flight and with many of those devices using streaming media.”

Qantas will begin trials of the service on a single Boeing 737 aircraft in at the end of this year. The aircraft will be retrofitted with the antenna receiver. The airline will then roll-out the service across its domestic fleet of A330s and B737s starting early 2017 as each aircraft is equipped.

“Bringing high-speed Wi-Fi to the domestic aviation market has been an ambition of ours for a long time and we now have access to the right technology to make it happen,” says Joyce, adding that the “goal is to make Australia home to the world’s best in-flight Wi-Fi experience.”

ViaSat is actively bidding against Gogo to launch Wi-Fi service on 200 of oneworld co-founder American Airline’s fleet.

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Tags: american airlines, gogo, qantas, viasat

Photo credit: A promotional image of a Qantas aircraft. Qantas

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