Qantas postpones NBN on-board Wi-Fi after 'stability issues'

Wi-Fi on-board Qantas' domestic flights has been postponed until the middle of the year, with the Australian airline saying it is working with NBN and ViaSat on 'stability issues'.

Qantas has postponed the launch of its on-board Wi-Fi service until midyear due to "stability issues" that it is working through with satellite providers the National Broadband Network (NBN) and ViaSat.

The Australian airline cancelled its test flight on Monday morning with media, saying that although the performance during internal trials of the Wi-Fi service over the past few weeks has been "strong", there were issues needing to be repaired.

"We were preparing to open it up to media and customers this week as we continue our fine-tuning over the next few months, but some stability issues have emerged that we need to fix before customers can use it," Qantas said in a statement.

"We're working with NBN and ViaSat to fix these issues very soon. We remain on-track for a broader rollout to the Qantas domestic fleet from mid-2017."

Qantas was originally due to launch the service commercially later this week.

Last month, Qantas announced the "successful" test of the on-board Wi-Fi service, with 140 passengers connecting an average of 1.6 devices each to the system and attaining download speeds of between 7Mbps and 12Mbps.

Originally, Qantas was aiming to enable access speeds of up to 20Mbps per passenger.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce last month said that the Wi-Fi offering is the first item on the company's overall agenda, and would be rolled out to around 80 domestic aircraft ahead of its international fleet.

"This is next-generation technology that will support a level of connectivity that's 10 times faster than the typical in-flight Wi-Fi -- speeds similar to what you'd expect on the ground," Joyce said last month.

"This month, we've flown a number of test flights, which showed we're on track to deliver a fantastic service to our customers when the first commercial flight takes off in the next few weeks."

Qantas first partnered with satellite communications service provider ViaSat to deliver the Wi-Fi service using NBN's Sky Muster satellite service in February last year. The service makes use of idle satellite capacity as the aircraft travels through Sky Muster's 101 ka-band spot beams.

Complementary to its Wi-Fi service, Qantas last month also partnered with Foxtel, Netflix, and Spotify to allow customers to stream content for free while in-flight.

Qantas announced a net profit of AU$515 million for the first half of FY17, down year on year by AU$173 million, on revenue of AU$8.2 billion, down by AU$279 million from the previous year.

Qantas has been focused on digitising its processes over the last few years: It appointed a former SAP executive as its new CIO at the beginning of the year and announced an accelerator program for 10 startups earlier this month to help it create "seamless" travel experiences, streamline processes, and build connected platforms by giving them access to its anonymised data and customer information.

Qantas is also analysing big data with GE Aviation in an effort to cut airline carrier fuel costs and carbon emissions, and turned to Amazon Web Services for flight planning instead of its legacy systems -- which has led to the carrier enabling real-time booking processing, increasing its data processing time by 100-fold, reducing the amount of code required to do the same workload by 90 percent, and cutting the cost to run the service by 80 percent.

"Customer needs keep evolving, and the limits of technology are constantly expanding, so there is a clear business imperative for us to find new ways to improve how we operate," Joyce said earlier this month.

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