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Optus to provide satellite capacity for Virgin inflight Wi-Fi

Optus Satellite has won a deal to supply capacity for Virgin Australia's proposed inflight Wi-Fi. The service will utilise technology from US inflight connectivity specialist Gogo, while satellite providers Intelsat and SES will also provide capacity on international flights.

Virgin is now commencing a three-month trial of the service, using Gogo's 2Ku technology, on one of its Boeing 737-800 aircraft. The airline said the trial would be used to gather feedback from customers, with a full installation of 2Ku across its fleet of Boeing 737-800, Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 aircraft planned following the customer testing period. The technology will leverage Optus Ku-band satellites for domestic and New Zealand services, and Intelsat and SES for all other international flights.

It is the first inflight Wi-Fi deal that Optus has provided capacity for. “We welcome the opportunity to provide dedicated satellite capacity to support Virgin Australia and Gogo in the delivery of a premier in-flight customer experience,” said Optus Satellite VP Paul Sheridan. Qantas is also currently trialling its own inflight Wi-Fi service. It is using technology provided by ViaSat backed by capacity from NBN's Sky Muster satellites.

Virgin Australia said that all guests travelling on the Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft during the trial period would be able to use the service free of charge during their flight. Guests will also be able to access streaming services Netflix, Stan and Pandora on their devices while in the air. “We are confident that by working with Gogo and Optus Satellite and using their proven technology we can deliver the best possible and most reliable connectivity and entertainment experience in the air,” said Virgin Australia group executive John Thomas.

Gogo is one of the pioneers of inflight connectivity and is currently used by airlines including Aer Lingus, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France KLM, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, GOL, Iberia, Japan Transoceanic Air and Virgin Atlantic. Gogo CEO Michael Small claimed that 2Ku delivered a ground-like performance to aircraft. “Importantly, 2Ku is built on an open architecture and can leverage new technology advancements in the future, which means the technology can provide passengers with a superior connectivity experience now and in the future,” he said.

Virgin Australia said it would finalise its business model after considering customer feedback and the results of the testing period. It will also work with relevant regulators to obtain approval for the inflight Wi-Fi service. Geoff Long, Commsday