01.Telstra's Skinet just getting off the ground
Mobile phone reception and internet access on flights between Sydney and Melbourne could experience a significant upgrade in the coming years as Telstra tests how well its 4G network works at cruising altitude.
It could mean a long awaited improvement in airborne internet access on major routes across Australia, which has generally been regarded as poor.
New antennas on four phone towers between the two cities have communicated well with devices aboard twin-propeller aircraft and a private jet flying at 30,000 feet during a recent trial run, according to Telstra.
Download speeds of 15 megabytes per second have reportedly been recorded, notably faster than current in-flight internet connections.
“You can do the things on the aircraft that you would be able to do if you were in a Wi-Fi hotspot,” Telstra executive director Mike Wright told News Limited.
It’s early days, however. The new system, dubbed Skinet, won’t come on line for at least two years depending on the outcome of further testing.
Operability will also depend on whether Telstra can come to agreements with the airlines and whether the Australian Communications and Media Authority will make the right radio frequency spectrum available.
How much passengers are willing to pay for the service is another unanswered question.