Qantas tests inflight wireless

Qantas Airways has said it will introduce new technology early next year that will enable customers to send and receive e-mails, text messages and make calls on mobile phones or personal electronic devices. The evaluation will be conducted in the first quarter of 2007 during a three-month trial on Australian domestic routes operated with Boeing 767 aircraft.

“With an increase in business travel, Qantas is committed to investing in products aimed at improving a customer’s ability to stay connected inflight,” said Wally R. Mariani, senior executive vice president, Qantas Airways, The Americas and Pacific. “Known as an innovative airline always abreast of new technologies, Qantas will be one of the first carriers in the world to offer this service,” he added.

Dedicated to improving the overall quality of travel, Qantas business travelers were surveyed about the concept in an effort to gauge a level of interest for such a service. An overwhelming majority felt the service was a good idea, particularly pertaining to e-mail access, and when asked about the benefits, the main reasons identified were ‘an effective use of time’ and the ‘ability to be contacted’ at any given time, as a flight for many has become an integral part of the business day.

“This is the first step towards developing a product that will support our travelers’ business and communications needs into the future,” said Wally R. Mariani. “We will actively seek feedback from our passengers so we can ensure that all travelers’ preferences are carefully considered prior to introducing this type of service,” he added.

Qantas teamed with Telstra, Panasonic Avionics Corporation and AeroMobile for the trial to develop a solution to permit wireless devices to be used safely in-flight. Calls are made and received through a Picocell, a smaller version of a ground mobile cellular base station equipped for use in the air, and pass through a satellite link before reaching the ground network.


The service will be simple for travelers to use and available once the aircraft has reached a cruising altitude. Passengers wanting to make or receive a call or SMS require only a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phone and a global roaming account. While customers wanting to send or receive e-mails would need a GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) enabled device or an appropriately equipped laptop.

Qantas has also been nominated this year for a


World Travel Award as World’s Leading First Class Airline.