Gogo has released a study showing global demand of in-flight connectivity that states “the U.S. market has become saturated with in-flight Wi-Fi and wireless in-flight entertainment.”

Ash ElDifrawi, Gogo’s chief commercial officer explains, “The need for ubiquitous connectivity is no secret. There are very few places on earth today that people can’t connect and the plane is really the last frontier. What’s surprising to us is that the demand is actually higher outside of the U.S. and Canada, where we are just scratching the surface in terms of connecting planes. The growing demand of in-flight services outside of the U.S. and Canada creates a significant opportunity for airlines servicing these regions around the world.”

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Gogo’s data is based on the company’s global traveler research study with participants from 19 countries and 5 continents who flown round-trip internationally over the past twelve months.

Gogo’s study finds that 90% of global passengers brought at least one Wi-Fi enabled electronic device on-board their last flight.

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Passengers flying with Android devices outnumbered those flying with iPhones 2:1 globally.

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“Interest in these services is even greater for travelers in the rest of the world, where the proliferation of in-flight connectivity is still in its early stages,” Gogo states.

  • 86% of travelers outside of North America say they are interested in using in-flight connectivity vs. 75% in the U.S. and Canada.
  • 76% of global travelers are also interested in having wireless in-flight entertainment onboard vs. 67% of U.S. and Canadian travelers.

Gogo also says the percentage of passengers flying with at least one Wi-Fi enabled device continues to rise.

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Given international connectivity and mobile trends on the ground, demand in the air should not come as a great surprise, but it does highlight the urgency of developing global networks which can seamlessly provide connectivity in the air.

This is where the intense competition in this sector is now focused.image

Gogo recently announced a deal with Intelsat which will allow it to provide pole-to-pole coverage. Inmarsat asserts it already provides global coverage while building a supplementary Air-to-Gound infrastructure in Europe.

ViaSat has partnered with other satellite providers to extend its range pending launch of its own additional satellites. One such partnership recently saw ViaSat awarded a contract for domestic Wi-Fi service on Qantas.

Other suppliers, including Panasonic Avionics, already a popular choice for in-flight entertainment offerings both embedded and wireless, have well-established satellite coverage abroad in growing markets. It became the first supplier to offer connectivity services in the challenging regulatory market of China last year.

SITA OnAir, which offers a combination of satellite and mobile coverage, has also been long established in International markets.

In part, global satellite coverage will help extend the availability of this service, but other technical challenges, such as the type of connection and type of antennae, as well as associated costs of the service impact adoption.

While global coverage is spotty, there is no shortage of suppliers willing to fill the gaps. As more airlines are persuaded of the business case for the service, passengers in these connectivity hungry markets will find the service more readily available. Whether demand expressed for the concept matches uptake on deployment is something both airlines and suppliers are eager to learn.

Photo Credit: A passenger using a tablet device on American Airlines. American Airlines