Qantas Airways and Virgin Australia have opened a new front in their increasingly fierce rivalry as they attempt to outdo each other with advanced inflight entertainment (IFE) systems.

Last week, Virgin Australia announced it would install an IFE system next year that streams content to passengers’ laptops and other portable devices via Wi-Fi (Aviation Daily, Dec. 16). On Friday, Qantas unveiled plans for an inflight connectivity system that will be trialed on Airbus A380 flights next year. Qantas also claims a streaming Wi-Fi system to debut on one of its Boeing 767s will be a first for the airline industry.

Qantas’ connectivity service will be provided by OnAir, using Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband and global satellite-based connections. Passengers can pay via credit cards to browse the Internet and access email.

The system will be tested on six A380s on the Los Angeles routes from Sydney and Melbourne. Initially, it will be offered in business and first classes. The trial will be part of Qantas’ “ongoing strategic evaluation of connectivity options,” the carrier says.

Qantas will begin another test in January, introducing streaming Wi-Fi on one of its 767-300 aircraft. The technology, called Q Streaming, will enable passengers to view IFE content on iPads provided at each seat. In a second stage of the trial, passengers will be able to download content onto their own viewing devices. The airline claims it will be first in the industry with such a system.

Qantas would not comment on the price of the system or who will install it.

A day earlier, Virgin Australia announced a deal with Lufthansa Services for a Wi-Fi-delivered IFE system that will enable passengers to watch content on their laptops and other devices. Installation of the BoardConnect system will begin in mid-2012.

A Virgin Australia spokeswoman tells Aviation Week that the first stage of the program will involve proving flights on a Boeing 737-800. Eventually, the system will be installed in 48 of the carrier’s aircraft. The spokeswoman says it is too early to comment on cost or which company is doing the retrofit, but she says more details will be revealed next year.