Sky-high Wi-Fi: Qantas lets you tweet from your seat with help from NBN

Good news for the perpetually connected, bad news for people hoping to ignore work emails for a few hours: Qantas is bringing Wi-Fi to domestic flights, with help from NBN's satellite network.

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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Claire Reilly
2 min read

Hello sky-high movie streaming, goodbye moment of blissful disconnect from the everyday world. Qantas has today announced it will be rolling out in-flight Wi-Fi across its domestic network from 2017, with the help of another Australian icon: the NBN.

Trials of the technology will begin late this year, with the help of global tech provider ViaSat, ready to deploy Wi-Fi across the Qantas network next year. ViaSat is already known in Australian telco circles after the company was chosen by NBN to provide communications equipment for Australia's Long Term Satellite Service, the piece of the 'multi-technology mix' responsible for delivering the NBN to rural and remote Australia.

Don't get me wrong -- the idea of Skyping in the sky and watching "Cloud Atlas" among the clouds is exciting. But deep down I'd hoped the archaic act of switching my phone into airplane mode and enjoying a few hours free from emails would hang around for a little longer.

But based on global trends, Qantas kept that disconnect up for longer than many other airlines. The likes of Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines have been offering paid Wi-Fi on some international routes to and from Australia for some time, and the service is well established in other domestic networks abroad, such as the US.

And if you're the kind of person who wants to tweet the sunset from your seat and post a sneaky Facebook photo of that celebrity on your flight, you'll be glad to hear the Spirit of Australia is following the global example.

"A long-standing ambition for Qantas has been to offer the convenience of fast, on-board Wi-Fi," said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce today, during the company's yearly results announcement. "Today we have the technology to make it happen."

In partnering with ViaSat, Joyce said Qantas would be able to "tap into the potential of the National Broadband Network" to introduce an "industry leading" service. While the airline is evaluating its options for other routes, including Wi-Fi for international and regional flights, Joyce said there was still plenty to do to get domestic Wi-Fi off the ground (pun, sadly, not intended).

"The challenge of providing on-board Wi-Fi in a country as vast as Australia can't be underestimated," said Joyce. "But with this new technology we can deliver speeds in the air that people usually expect on the ground.

"So this doesn't just mean being able to check emails and Facebook on a flight from Melbourne to Brisbane. It means streaming your favourite TV show or movie from Sydney to Perth. Or watching an entire cricket or rugby or football game in real time. It will be that fast."