While all the attention may have been on Qantas’ launch of in-flight WiFi internet, Virgin Australia have been busily working away on its own tests for sky-high internet over Australia.
Virgin Australia have equipped a single Boeing 737 (VH-YIG) with satellite capabilities which connect to Optus’ Satellite services above Australia and provide high-speed internet to users on-board the plane.
High-Speed is a term that many will be debating, as Qantas claims the fastest Internet in the sky, Virgin has opted for a tried and tested service in partnership with global provider GoGo – I’ve used GoGo internet on Delta flights in the USA many times before – but their speeds aren’t quite what Qantas has been claiming, and they often restrict many streaming services.
For our test we flew on board Virgin Australia’s Internet equipped Boeing 737 from Sydney to Melbourne to run a few tests.
While this plane has been in the air for some time conducting tests, from today an announcement is being made on board the plane to let people know they have access to free WiFi internet.
In the seat pocket for each passenger is a large how-to guide reflecting the basic connection instructions as well as some simple troubleshooting too.
Our network diagnostics showed around 15 devices connected nearing the end of the flight.
The internet service is available “gate to gate” meaning unlike most services internationally, you don’t have to wait until the plane reaches cruising altitude before you can access the internet – it’s available as you board the plane. For our test, the internet was not available until the doors had been closed, however we understand this is just the case during the final stages of testing.
Right at the start we saw speeds of 25 and 35 Mbps downloads, with less than 1 Mbps uploads. After a bit of time, and a few connected devices of our own – it dropped to under 20 – the lowest I saw was 14Mbps.
Netflix & Stan
No issues streaming – a longer than normal “loading” time which reflects the poor latency of a satellite connection, but once streaming neither skipped a beat. We were running three streams simultaneously on three devices and all were in great quality too. (though likely not HD to be clear)
If you’re not already a subscriber – good news, there are some great sign-up offers on board!
To throw it to the full test, we loaded up three live streams. The Today Show on 9Now, F1 highlights on Fox Sports via Foxtel Go and ABC iView live stream on the laptop.
Didn’t miss a beat.
Spotify & Apple Music
Once again, no issue at all. Spotify loaded as we normally see and hear on the ground, though Apple Music seemed to take a lot longer to load it’s image heavy menus – streaming of music was faultless.
Instagram & Snapchat?
Posting away like a trooper!
I was able to post photos, instagram stories and even an Instagram LIVE broadcast. And threw an Augmented reality rainbow onto the wing of the plane on Snapchat.
Twitter and Facebook Live?
Had no issues broadcasting to Twitter during Taxi and Takeoff, and was able to do a short Facebook Live stream also mid-flight. Why you would want this – I don’t know:)
No issues whatsoever. Worked a charm!
This is more than adequate. While Qantas will tout their “high-speed” even if the speeds halve with usage on board Virgin, I can’t imagine they won’t be more than capable of the things average users will be doing. Basic internet is a breeze, and for those few keen to stream live TV or watch Stan or Netflix there won’t be too many issues.
Virgin’s Internet plane is in the skies today, making regular trips each day with paying passengers on board. Just like with Qantas – If you’re lucky enough to jag it on your next flight you too can check it out.
During the trial period there is no fee for the service, and while Virgin has not announced their long term plans, it’s likely they will offer the service free for a short period, with a paid service optional after that.
Virgin’s single 737 with Internet will fly for a few months before the roll out of this connectivity begins on the rest of the domestic fleet over the next 18 months.
Posted from 30,000 feet on-board Virgin Australia flight 824 from Sydney to Melbourne. Trevor Long travelled as a guest of Virgin Australia
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.