[qi:___wifi] Wi-Fi on planes isn’t just a threat. It’s here, as evidenced by this recent video chat between our earthbound colleague Kevin Tofel and Paul Walborsky, our fearless leader, who was crossing the country on a Virgin America flight. What’s better (or worse, depending on your point of view) is that by 2011, in-flight broadband service revenue will surpass that of direct video broadcast, with in-flight broadband sales totaling $761 million, according to a report out today by In-Stat.
The in-flight broadband market currently stands at around $47 million, while live broadcast sales are around $250 million. But since people want Wi-Fi, and carriers want to make extra money off people trapped in their cabins, both will be offered. The number of broadband-enabled airplanes will rise to 800 in 2009 from 25 in 2008, In-Stat is predicting.
And the number of annual in-flight broadband connections will top 200 million by 2013, with long-haul connections dominating over short-haul connections. Despite the annoyances caused by video chats on a plane, in-flight broadband is useful since many people now run applications in the cloud and need a web connection to access them. With in-flight broadband, people can access the cloud when they’re in the clouds.