I lucked out over the long weekend and ended on Qantas' first Wi-Fi enabled Boeing 737 for a flight back to Sydney. Despite the fact that the service is still technically in beta, I actually had a great experience. I had connectivity the entire flight, download speeds were consistently high, and I got to enjoy the somewhat novel experience of tweeting from the sky.
Woo! Ended up on the @Qantas Wi-Fi plane pic.twitter.com/EtF0p4rKg3
— Alex Choros (@a_choros) April 17, 2017
From a pure numbers perspective, my download speeds ranged from between 30Mbps to 43Mbps; far above Qantas' advertised speeds of 20Mbps. I'm guessing this is because other travellers weren't actually using the Wi-Fi. Upload speeds were far slower, measuring in at a paltry 0.56Mbps. I was still able to upload a ten second video to Instagram, but the process wasn't exactly quick. Ping was also a bit of an issue, and consistently over 1000 milliseconds.
While high latency isn't surprising given that Qantas Wi-Fi is powered by satellite, it does make the overall experience feel slower than it is. Web pages will take a few extra seconds to even start loading, for example. Any online gaming would be next to impossible.
In terms of actual use, the whole experience was quite seamless. I spent my entire flight alternating between streaming through Apple Music and streaming through Netflix, and did so without interruption. Higher latency aside, it was like I never lost my phone's 4G connectivity. I’ve paid for access to worse Wi-Fi in the past, so the fact Qantas isn’t charging is a nice bonus.
There's certainly virtue to having a few hours without connectivity - it's nice not to be contactable - but inflight Wi-F is equally nice to have. Especially when it works as well as Qantas’. I wouldn’t describe inflight Wi-Fi as a necessity, but I’m nonetheless looking forward to seeing more Qantas planes kitted out with connectivity.