For business travelers wanting to continue their work uninterrupted, even the sky is no longer a limit, thanks to the advent of in-flight Wi-Fi services. And with initial investments in onboard Wi-Fi hotspots paying for themselves several times over, leading airlines can say more confidently than before that in-flight Wi-Fi is indeed a massive revenue contributor to their operations. From being an amenity exclusive to a few top-class airlines, in-flight Wi-Fi is now being offered on budget airlines globally. And this marks the beginning of a new phase for the global in-flight Wi-Fi services market, finds a new report by Persistence Market Research.
In-flight Wi-Fi Market Reaches Tipping Point as Leading Airlines Spot Massive Revenue Generating Potential
Routehappy, a platform that offers product differentiation services to airlines, conducted a survey in early 2015 to study the state of in-flight Wi-Fi in the global airlines industry. The company’s study showed that more airlines are now looking at in-flight internet connectivity as a means to make for a more compelling flying experience. However, the key takeaway was this: Worldwide, flyers have at least some chance of availing in-flight Wi-Fi on 24% of their flight miles. While some airlines, such as Virgin America and Icelander have among the highest percentage of flight miles with Wi-Fi, others are yet to offer their customers the same level of onboard internet connectivity.
Presently, the economics of in-flight Wi-Fi are anything but homogeneous. On the one hand, more flyers are expecting free internet access when flying domestic and international routes. Airlines, on the other hand, are still trying to assess whether complementary internet access could potentially smother a budding revenue opportunity.
Which Companies are at the Forefront of the In-flight Wi-Fi Business Globally?
The factors discussed above, coupled with a flurry of new launches by in-flight Wi-Fi providers, have made for a rather dynamic market scenario. Here are the top players that have blazed a trail in the in-flight Wi-Fi market:
Gogo – Reaping the Benefits of Being an Early Mover
From Virgin America to Alaska Airlines to Delta, Gogo is the internet service provider for almost all leading American airlines. Gogo offers in-flight Wi-Fi services via its extensive air-to-ground network – a wide cellular network that can support a range of connections, right from 3.1 Mbps to 9.8 Mbps. The ISP is now gradually moving to a more advanced satellite technology that brings with it the promise of lightning fast internet connectivity in the air, with speeds ranging from 40 to 70 Mbps. The pricing plans that Gogo offers are equally vast, ranging from one-hour passes that cost a few dollars to monthly subscriptions for about US$60.
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Row44 – Relying on Satellites for High-speed In-flight Wi-Fi
If you’re travelling by Southwest Airlines, you’re likely using internet-in-the-sky provided by Row44, an ISP owned by Global Eagle Entertainment. The ISP uses Ku-band satellites for in-flight internet, which carry the capacity to provide bandwidths up to 40 Mbps. The only drawback of a satellite connection is that it is beamed across a wide geographical area and all airlines in that area need to share the available internet bandwidth. Despite this, Row44’s in-flight Wi-Fi speed isn’t disappointing given that it ranges from 1.5 Mbps to 2 Mbps.
Panasonic – Leveraging its Position as In-flight Entertainment Hardware Provider
Panasonic already has a footing in the airline industry thanks to its business as a supplier of in-flight entertainment hardware. In the past couple of years, the company has leveraged this standing to make headway into the in-flight internet business as well. United Airlines, for one, has shown a preference for Panasonic Avionics as an ISP. Because it already deals with airlines for in-flight entertainment, Panasonic reportedly offers subsidized satellite-powered internet connectivity to its customers.