By the end of 2008, there were only 25 airplanes with broadband enabled. Reports indicate that this market is still emerging and will grow upto $1 billion annually by 2012.
Recent research by In-Stat found the following:
- In-flight broadband equipment revenue will nearly double between 2009 and 2013.
- Competing providers include Aircell, Panasonic and Row44.
- In-Stat forecasts over 200 million annual in-flight broadband connects by 2013, with long-haul connects dominating over short-haul connects.
- Connections from handheld devices will account for about 1/3 of connects, with notebook computers accounting for 2/3.
How will this work?
Airplanes would get their broadband connectivity through:
- Satellite (like Row44 and Panasonic’s service)
- An air-to-ground network (Aircell’s service based on its own air-to-ground network)
Challenges till date
- Weak economy
- Poor availability of in-flight entertainment
- High costs of the service and equipment
- Difficulty getting regulatory approval for external antennas
- Extra weight of the equipment adding to fuel costs
Where are we today?
- Aircell has been working with American, Delta, United and Virgin America to offer Gogo broadband Wi-Fi services on a number of planes.
- JetBlue’s “BetaBlue” plane has a narrowband service that allows sending emails and instant messages.
- American Airlines has plans to install in-flight broadband in more than 300 of its airplanes in the next two years.
- All 28 planes of Virgin America should have Wi-Fi enabled by June this year.
- Alaska and Southwest airlines have begun testing Row 44’s satellite-delivered broadband services on some planes.
With service and equipment costs going down, conditions look a lot brighter now. In-flight broadband providers like Aircell, Row44, and Panasonic can now look at large scale deployments.