In-Flight WiFi Adoption Boosted by Budget Airlines
The decreasing costs of in-flight WiFi hardware will for the first time make connected IFE attractive to low-cost airlines on short-haul routes.The adoption of in-flight WiFi by budget airlines will provide a boost to the connected in-flight entertainment (IFE) market, driving the number of connected commercial aircraft to over 10,400 by 2020, according to a report from Juniper Research. This will represent over a threefold increase from an estimated 3,200 this year, and the decreasing costs of standalone in-flight WiFi hardware, which will soon be offered as line-fit equipment by major aircraft manufacturers, will for the first time make connected IFE attractive to low-cost airlines flying short-haul routes. "I think the biggest hurdle is still low-cost connectivity coupled with certain business model challenges," Gareth Owen, associate analyst at Juniper Research, told eWEEK. "The rate of adoption will depend on how quickly these issues are resolved. Connectivity has traditionally been the main challenge facing connected IFE; this situation is now getting better, particularly with the launch of new satellites, including Inmarsat’s Global Xpress, which will help to overcome these problems." Owen said for the airlines, the biggest challenge to broader adoption is making passengers pay—only around 8 per cent of passengers globally use in-flight connectivity when they have to pay for it, and they are experimenting to create viable business models, but they may (at least in the short term) have to regard connectivity as an essential value-add service rather than a revenue generation opportunity.
He noted other issues include safety and security and regulatory issues, which might have a bigger impact on adoption in some parts of the world.