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Increasing flight connectivity to boost airline revenue

Posted: 18 Feb 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:in-flight connectivity? Wi-Fi? network?

The number of cellphone handsets, laptops and netbooks sold with Wi-Fi connectivity is forecast to exceed 300 million in 2010 and will grow for some years, a good sign for airlines that want to offer in-flight connectivity to passengers.

IMS Research published a market study focusing on the development of the market for in-flight entertainment and connectivity. It shows that, by 2015, the number of new consumer devices (cellphones, laptops and netbooks) sold with Wi-Fi capability will exceed one billion units. This will mean that practically every new laptop and netbook and nearly half of all new cellphones will be able to connect to a wireless network, something that is becoming more important for purchasers.

A continuing social trend is "always to be connected". In the world of business, most people are finding that they can continue their work while on the move; as they can deal with emails and conduct meetings via their cell phones, their "mobile office" minimizing their downtime. In private life, the popularity of social networking coupled with the growth in ownership of smart phones has led people to expect to be constantly connected. These factors will drive increased sales of consumer devices that can be connected to networks; and might reward the airlines that have installed onboard connectivity hardware.

There were around 1,400 commercial aircraft worldwide offering onboard internet and/or cellphone use in 2009; by 2015 there are forecast to be over 14,000. This is a reflection of how the airline industry is noting the on-ground popularity, and need, for access on the move. This will be good news both for business travelers and for others just wanting to surf the web to pass the time or to chat to friends online. Most important, this may become a lucrative revenue stream for the many airlines struggling to make a profit. A $5 charge for connectivity for a short flight of up to 1.5 hours equates to significant revenues with today's passenger numbers. However, constant cell phone talk from a nearby seat may not be an unmixed blessing on long flights, where getting sleep might be the priority for some; and unimpeded connectivity might even be a disincentive to take a particular flight!

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