In-flight broadband’s story so far has been similar to that of airplanes sitting on the runway, waiting for clearance to take flight. Despite a big push from Boeing and other major international carriers, in-flight broadband was stuck on ground, burning dollars like an idle plane burns gas. No more! Thanks to new surface-to-air technologies used by companies such as Aircell, the business is ready for takeoff.
Of course, airlines’ desperation to make money any which way they can has helped accelerate the rollout of GoGo-like services. In-Stat, a market research firm, predicts there will be 800 planes with in-flight broadband by the end of 2009 vs. just 25 in 2008, generating $47 million in global revenue. By 2012, In-Stat expects in-flight broadband will be a billion-dollar-a-year business, with demand for in-flight broadband equipment nearly doubling between 2009 and 2013. Indeed, airlines such as Virgin, American Airlines, Alaska and Delta are being super aggressive with their rollouts.
By 2013, In-Stat sees the number of annual in-flight broadband connects topping 200 million. “Connections from handheld devices will account for about 1/3 of connects, with notebook computers accounting for 2/3,” the firms predicts. On that point, I think they’re wrong. It will be the other way around. Using the iPhone/iPod Touch to connect and get emails is a much better and easier option than opening up a notebook.
Useful link: The GigaOM In-Flight Broadband Cheat Sheet.