Qatar Airways rolls out superfast in-flight Wi-Fi

Doha-headquartered Qatar Airways has begun rolling out high-speed broadband Internet connectivity on its Boeing (NYSE:BA) 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft, a move the airline says makes it the first carrier in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region to offer that quality of in-flight service for its passengers.

“Qatar Airways passengers can now enjoy high-speed broadband connectivity, providing rich content without restriction, whether using the internet for work or relaxation during their journey,” Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways’ Group Chief Executive, said. “Business travelers in particular will be able to maximize their ‘office in the sky’ with seamless continuity.”

The “Super Wi-Fi” high-speed broadband connectivity uses Inmarsat Aviation’s GX Aviation technology, which can achieve connectivity speeds of up to 50 Mbps, according to the airline’s public relations representative. That is more than three times faster than the fastest Internet connectivity offered by any U.S. airline, and four to five times faster than most.

According to a recent report published by, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) and Virgin America offer the fastest of U.S. airlines, at 15 Mbps. jetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) offers 12 Mbps while Alaska (NYSE:ALK), Southwest (NYSE:LUV), American (NASDAQ:AAL), and United (NYSE:UAL) all offer speeds around 10 Mbps.

Passengers on flights fitted with GX Aviation will initially receive one hour free access to the new system, with additional access available for purchase.

Inmarsat Aviation is the same high-tech provider selected by Qatar Airways for the space-based tracking system it uses to track all its flights worldwide. Inmarsat uses a network of satellites to detect signals transmitted from aircraft and relay information regarding speed, location and direction, to ground-based receivers.

My take

SPEED: In my experience, the speeds reflected in this report do not translate to the speed each individual traveler will experience from his or her seat. While the aircraft may be connecting at 50 Mbps, remember there's only one pipe between the plane and the ground, and that's shared by all the people using Wi-Fi at any given time. That will affect each individual user's experience.

AVAILABILITY: In-flight Wi-Fi is great as far as it goes, and a system that relies on satellites will make it much more useful than equipment that relies on land-based facilities.

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Photo by Carl Dombek
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