Good morning from 10,668 metres (35,000 feet) above Australia, where I’m currently travelling at 1174km/h (730mph) towards Sydney on an Etihad Boeing 777. The outside temperature is -41C and right now we’re over the Nullarbor Plain northwest of Adelaide at about 4am.
We’re making seriously good time and look set to arrive 40 minutes early at 6am – the first allowable time at Kingsford Smith airport.
The UAE’s national airline is pretty good on the tech front, and I’ve had a chance to watch the remake of the ’70s TV series Roots, by Australian director Phillip Noyce on the excellent E-Box inflight entertainment system.
I’ve had a few hours sleep on the 12-hour, 40-minute flight home from Abu Dhabi, but because I’m still on European time, I’ve woken up and decided to do a little bit of work.
And I’m also trying out a part of the future of flying that will dramatically change how you spend your time in the air criss-crossing Australia, with Qantas set to start trialling high-speed inflight wifi , via NBN satellites, which they say will be 10 times faster than existing services, by the end of the year.
We had a look at the inflight wifi on Singapore Airlines last month and today it’s Etihad’s turn with its “Wi-Fly” service.
I’m impressed again – I keep pulling up the Business Insider home page on my laptop and moving around the site and it only takes a second or two to load.
The cost is pretty good: 2 hours for $US11.95, 4 hours for $US17.95 or for $US21.95, you can get a “flight pass” and spent the entire trip online.
Compare that to the text message my telco sent me as I boarded the plane, letting me know that I could make/receive aerospace calls at $4 a minute, send an SMS for $1 or (YIKES!) use data at $15.50/MB.
Very no thanks.
Etihad says the upload speed is around 5 Mbps and the download 1 Mbps, although the bandwidth is shared so it depends on how many people are logged in and using it – they say expect it to be about the same speed as a public hotspot on the ground.
Wi-Fly only works above 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) – it automatically cuts out below that level. But the best part is there are no data limits so if you want to have a down/uploading frenzy in the air, go for it.
The good news is that you can use multiple devices, but you can’t be logged into two at the same time, so after I’ve finished writing here, I’m going to log into my phone and upload the pictures I’ve taken for this story.
Of course the bad news about all this amazing technology is it’s potentially another step towards the end of being disconnected with the outside world. Even planes are no longer an escape. At least, unlike my morning bus commute, no one aboard seems mad keen to have a long, loud chat on the phone repeatedly saying “I’m on a plane”.
On the upside, if you need to stay in touch with the office, or get some work done that requires you to be online – waves – which it increasingly does, then Etihad’s Wi-Fly is just what your boss ordered.
Oh, and good morning to my colleagues at Business Insider Australia.
See you in the office as soon as I’ve descended from the height of Mt Everest.