Qatar Airways has announced it will be the first carrier from the Middle East/North Africa region to provide high-speed Wi-Fi broadband connectivity to passengers across the globe using its service.
What it calls Super Wi-Fi broadband uses Inmarsat’s GX Aviation, which is powered by Global Xpress (GX), the world’s first global Ka-band satellite network. The network is made up of four communications satellites, each of which is expected to have a commercial life of 15 years. The service has been delivering high-speed broadband connectivity since December 2015.
Qatar Airways’ Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft will be progressively fitted out with the new technology. The first hour of access will be provided free of charge, and if more time is needed it can be purchased (apparently, $10 for access over a full flight).
“Business travellers in particular will be able to maximise their ‘office in the sky’ with seamless continuity,” stated Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Mr. Akbar Al Baker.
No doubt it will be welcomed by the business community, which loses a great deal of productivity through being disconnected during flights – and for other users, it will open up a world of entertainment opportunities to help battle in-flight boredom.
David Flynn, writing for Australian Business Traveller, tested the service and said he experienced 5-8Mbps download speeds, but uploads were more variable; from 0.32Mbps to 5Mbps.
In related news, India’s government has approved allowing smartphones to be used once an aircraft achieves a height of 3,000 meters. Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said this will be rolled out over the next 3 – 4 months.
Closer to home, last year we reported Qantas said its in-flight wi-fi broadband was nearing prime time. Where that is currently at isn’t clear, but Qantas says by the end of 2018, it will have Wi-Fi enabled on 80 of its domestic fleet of B737’s and A330’s – and it will be a free service.
Also last year, Virgin Australia commenced a three-month testing period of inflight wireless internet access on a single aircraft. After testing was completed, the company announced in August plans to rollout inflight wireless internet to the majority of its domestic and international aircraft. It said it expected to have inflight wi-fi on all Boeing 777 aircraft and the majority of Boeing 737 aircraft by the end of this year, with its Airbus A330 aircraft due for completion by the second half of next year.
The service will be using Gogo’s 2Ku technology, which involves a dual-antenna system (one for forward link, one for return link) to deliver simultaneous transmissions, working in with Optus Satellite services.