In-flight WiFi to spread quickly as costs come down

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In-flight WiFi in Europe is an elusive luxury today, reserved only for the high-end airlines which charge top prices for the privilege, while WiFi on planes in the US is a much more common amenity. A report published this week by NSR Aeronautical Satcom Markets 5th Edition report.    claims that in-flight connectivity will be installed on every 2 out of 3 commercial passenger air-craft by the end of 2026 – representing a $32 billion revenue opportunity.

The expectations of passengers that all forms of transportation should now provide reliable WiFi services is increasing rapidly, and the shift to deploy this at scale on aircraft will be met by the roll out of HTS (high-throughput satellites).

Airlines are set to make enormous cost savings on future aircraft by replacing heavy cabling and screens with an in-flight WiFi system to accommodate a bring your own device (BYOD) model – either charging a fee for usage or monetizing a free service with ads. At present, in-flight WiFi is almost universally not free.

The cost for displays, controllers, wiring, servers, and other related equipment for traditional in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems can be up to $15.8 million in a single aircraft, or $15,000 per seat, according to a whitepaper from Intertrust’s ExpressPlay.

According to a piece of client research carried out by Maravedis, we found that some 22% of planes in Europe offer WiFi services, a vast improvement from 15% in the previous year. This compares with 66% in the US.

If NSR’s forecast is anywhere near the mark, then it isn’t just the airlines and connectivity providers which will see some of the projected $32 billion, but the online content providers and social media platforms too, while the airport bookshops might suffer a decline in sales as in-flight WiFi begins to take off.

In-flight WiFi in Europe at present is mostly sold on a per hour or per flight basis, as a monthly subscription service is not feasible until the proportion of planes with WiFi reaches significantly more than 22%, as it does in the US, where monthly subs are available from GoGo Air and iPass and others.

Some examples of WiFi prices per flight are as follows, Aer Lingus in Europe costs $18.95, American Air charges $17 in Europe and $19 outside Europe, Qatar Air charges $20 outside Europe, Virgin sets passengers back $22 a flight, while Norwegian Air is completely free in Europe. The average works out at $18 per flight inside Europe and $24 for transcontinental flights from Europe.

Over in the US, where the chance of your aircraft having in-flight WiFi is much higher, by far the cheapest option for internal flights is a monthly subscription to in-flight internet and entertainment provider GoGo Air, which costs $60 a month for a multi-airline package. Inter-national flights are far more expensive, costing $80 a month or $28 for long haul trips.

This article is an abstract from the Wireless Watch service. Learn More. 

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