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Qantas Tests Wi-Fi For Long Distance Flights

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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“The Flying Kangaroo” airline offers first class passengers 100MB of long-haul data

Qantas, Australia’s largest airline, has launched an on-board Wi-Fi trial this week on six planes flying between Australia and Los Angeles.

The service will provide data-capped access to the Internet and emails in the sky. The carrier says it is the first airline to offer Wi-Fi connectivity on direct flights on this route.

Sky High Surfing

Internet access is not a novelty for domestic flights. But the much-desired ability to check your e-mail 40,000 feet above the ground is still rare for international journeys. Starting on 7 March, the company nicknamed “The Flying Kangaroo” has enabled Wi-Fi on six of its A380 planes, for 14-hour flights between Sydney and Los Angeles, and Melbourne and Los Angeles.

The trial will run for eight weeks, and free access will be limited to first and business class passengers. The usefulness of the service is undermined by a strict data cap, which depends on the class of the device – a laptop will receive a 100MB allowance, and a smart phone just 35MB. This means users will be unable to do much more than send an e-mail and perhaps watch a few YouTube videos.

The Internet connection will be beamed through a satellite. The service is provided by OnAir, a company which specialises in inflight connectivity and is jointly owned by Airbus.

Quantas warns that the bandwidth is limited and the performance of the internet connection may be affected by the number of people using the service and the type of content being accessed. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications such as Skype cannot be used while in flight.

“The eight week trial will give customers the opportunity to access the Internet in exactly the same way as a terrestrial Wi-Fi hotspot in which customers can pay with their credit card and surf the Internet, including the use of email,” said Qantas executive manager for customer experience Alison Webster.

In related news, Channel Tunnel between UK and France will get 3G coverage from July, while the future of Wi-Fi on the London underground is still uncertain.

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