Initial tests of ViaSat Ka connectivity on Qantas 737 are heartening

HAMBURG — As the aircraft interiors and passenger connectivity industry gathered in Hamburg for AIX 2017, Qantas, ViaSat and the Australian government’s satellite Internet provider NBN tested the airline’s sole flying connected Boeing 737-800 down under.

Initial testing seemed positive and successful, most reminiscent of ViaSat’s first media unveiling with JetBlue back in late 2013. The system hit and exceeded the 12 Mbps per passenger peak, though of course this is with a single aircraft and on a heavily monitored media flight.

When Qantas’ original media test flight was cancelled last month, company spokesperson Stephen Moynihan told RGN that “some stability issues have emerged that we need to fix before customers can use it”.

He added, “We’re working with NBN and ViaSat to fix these issues very soon. We remain on-track for a broader roll out to the Qantas Domestic fleet from mid-2017.”

It is unclear at this stage whether the known issues that delayed that flight — which RGN understands to be on the NBN side of the three-party system — are now completely resolved or whether they were moved to one side for the media flight. While RGN sought information from both Qantas and ViaSat, neither was forthcoming with adequate detail to assure passengers or investors of the current and future situation.

Even so, all parties are quite rightfully thrilled with the latest results. ViaSat’s Don Buchman says the achievement “represents the culmination of three companies collaboratively working together, committed to bringing consumers flying in Australia the best internet experiences in the skies.

“We’re building Qantas a mobility service platform to scale, ensuring passengers, cabin crew members and pilots on-board, as well as flight and operational crew members on the ground have the opportunity to access a fast, high-quality internet connection. As we prepare to launch the official inflight Wi-Fi production system, we will continue to test the trial aircraft and fine-tune the network with the goal to continually enhance the end-user experience.”

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