Road Warriors Rejoice: Wi-Fi Is Coming to More Airplanes
The number of commercial airplanes offering in-flight Wi-Fi service will soar over the next five years. By 2022, some 14,419 planes will be equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity, up a whopping 175% from 5,243 this year, according to projections from Juniper Research, a Hampshire, U.K. market researcher.
That would mean that in five years, half of the world’s passenger fleet will be connected where less than a quarter of commercial planes are now, Juniper said.
Related: These Airlines have the Best Wi-Fi
Demand for airplane Wi-Fi is driven by the continuing bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, boom. People want to use their personal tablets or smartphones nearly everywhere to work, play games, or surf the web. That’s not something they can do in non-connected airplane mode. So airplane Wi-Fi is becoming table stakes for airlines.
It’s also a profit center, given the current rates charged by providers like Gogo (GOGO), which is used by Alaska Airlines (ALK) and United Airlines (UAL), Gogo charges $7 an hour or $19 per day for access. Frequent fliers can purchase monthly or annual passes. American Airlines will use both Gogo and ViaSat (VSAT) satellite services going forward.
Juniper Research also noted an increase in the number of airlines offering in-flight wireless streaming services as an option to the usual seat-back entertainment systems. The researcher expects that monthly revenue from such streaming services will rise 30%.
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There’s one very sticky issue on the horizon however. Security concerns that caused the U.S. government to propose (then back off from) a laptop ban in the passenger cabin of some flights, which clearly could be a factor.
Another issue: Just having Wi-Fi does not mean that the connectivity experience aboard a plane is great. It often isn’t. Here’s hoping that quality will improve along with quantity.