Inflight Wi-Fi Down Under? Don’t Count On NBN Satellites

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The National Broadband Network has no plans to introduce satellite based Wi-Fi, despite suggestions in some quarters that this is under consideration, company spokespeople say.

Some reports have this week suggested that NBN might consider operating such a service as pressure grows for Australian airlines – principally Qantas – to offer Internet access on long-distance flights.

And, while Qantas has dragged its feet on introducing such a service, despite a half-hearted trial in 2012, a Qantas executive this week told Web site Australian Business Traveller (of which former technology journalist David Flynn is editor) that the airline is “exploring options to introduce on-board Wi-Fi” 

Any airline would need to strike a deal with a satellite service to introduce long-distance inflight Internet. And while NBN now has suitable sophisticated satellites, its charter is strictly to provide high-speed broadband services to users in regional and remote areas. Optus, which has a bigger but older fleet, has already indicated it would hotly oppose any move by NBN to spread its satellite wings for inflight Wi-Fi.

But pressure is growing on Aussie airlines to offer Wi-Fi services, according to Routehappy, a US travel service company that specialises in reporting on the area. It notes that Wi-Fi has now been rolled out on 71pc of US aircraft – including Qantas joint partner American Airlines – as well as by Asian-based Emirates, another partner. 

“American offers Wi-Fi on all flights they operate to Australia. Once passengers realise that Wi-Fi now exists in those routes, it will become something Qantas will want to offer to match the services offered by its partner,” Routehappy data research manager Jason Rabinowitz this week told newsletter Communications Day
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