Demand for onboard Wifi hits new heights


New survey by Inmarsat and GfK shows that 90% of Asia Pacific passengers would like to access onboard connectivity and 67% are willing to pay for it

Airlines need to offer a reliable, high-quality broadband service to boost passenger uptake, according to extensive survey of over 9,000 people from 27 countries

One of the most comprehensive surveys of airline passengers worldwide has highlighted soaring demand for in-flight broadband in Asia Pacific, with nine out of ten respondents from the region stating the availability of onboard connectivity would influence their choice of airline, while over two thirds are willing to pay for the service.

The In-Flight Connectivity Survey was conducted by Inmarsat (LSE: ISAT.L), the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services, and market research company GfK between August 2015 and March 2016. Responses were gathered from more than 9,000 passengers in Asia, Australasia, Europe, and Central and South America who had taken a short, medium or long haul flight in the past year and carried at least one personal device onboard the aircraft.

The survey showed that 54% and 57% of Asia Pacific passengers would choose in-flight broadband as a preferred service in short-haul and long-haul flights, compared to only 16% and 18% choosing traditional in-flight entertainment (IFE) as their preferred onboard service.

Business flyers are even more likely to recognise the value of paying for high-speed onboard connectivity than leisure travellers. 74% of business travellers surveyed indicated that they are willing to pay more for faster in-flight broadband compared to 62% of leisure travellers.

64% of passengers felt that in-flight broadband can deliver on all of their onboard needs. This highlights an opportunity for airlines to use in-flight broadband to increase ancillary revenues, as the majority of passengers are willing to pay for the service, with 68% of passengers under 34 years old and 55% of passengers over 45 years old willing to pay for unlimited internet usage during a flight.

Passenger usage is driven by quality of service in Asia Pacific

When passengers talk about in-flight broadband quality, the key issues they are concerned with are Reliability (that a connection does not drop out or cut off), Availability (that the connection is available throughout the flight), and Speed of the connection. Quality is even more important than price in Asia Pacific, as passengers are prepared to pay more for a quality service. 72% of flyers in Asia Pacific would prefer not to use broadband that is not of high quality with 62% stating they would pay more for faster in-flight broadband.

Strong opportunities in Australia and New Zealand:

The survey has highlighted strong opportunities for in-flight connectivity in New Zealand and Australia. Results show that 77% and 70% of passengers from New Zealand and Australia respectively indicated that they are willing to pay for unlimited internet usage during one flight, making New Zealand and Australia the highest ‘willing to pay’ markets across Asia Pacific.

Additional information on the survey, including white papers, infographics and regional breakdowns for Asia Pacific, Europe and Latin America, are available on Inmarsat’s website.

Bill Peltola, Asia Pacific Regional Director at Inmarsat Aviation, said: “Our survey has highlighted a growing appetite for fast, reliable and consistent broadband in the air, with more than half of Asia Pacific passengers preferring in-flight connectivity over a meal or traditional IFE. Although three-quarters of Asia Pacific flyers would like to try onboard broadband in the future, only 3% of aircraft operating in Asia Pacific today offer the service, highlighting the potential for airlines to use it as a differentiation point to attract more customers.

“Inmarsat is the ideal connectivity partner for airlines, as we can offer a similar standard of broadband in the air as passengers receive on the ground, with global coverage. In addition to this quality of service, we have invested in a unique roadmap to develop our aviation broadband capabilities and ensure we continue to meet airline requirements in the future.”

Inmarsat recently unveiled its aviation broadband roadmap to ensure that rising demand for fast, reliable and global in-flight connectivity is met for the next five years and beyond. The launch of its GX Aviation service this year creates the world’s first high-speed passenger broadband solution with seamless, end-to-end global coverage, delivered through a single operator. Engineered to meet the needs of complex and evolving airline route systems, initial customers include Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Jazeera Airways.

The GX network, which entered commercial service with three powerful Ka-band satellites in December 2015, will provide the international bandwidth capacity needed to meet existing and near-term demand from airlines. It also serves as a global coverage underlay that will be built upon as part of the aviation broadband roadmap to meet future demand.

Inmarsat is scheduled to launch its fourth GX satellite, produced by Boeing, later this year and has awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract to build two additional satellites (Inmarsat-6 F1 and F2) with a Ka-band payload to add depth to its global GX coverage. The first Inmarsat-6 satellite is scheduled for delivery by the close of the decade.

Another vital component in the roadmap is Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network, which will be the first aviation passenger connectivity solution across European airspace to integrate an advanced satellite network and LTE-based ground network; the latter will be operated by Deutsche Telekom. The first commercial EAN trials are expected in mid-2017.

NOTE: The In-Flight Connectivity Survey was completed in two phases. The first phase was conducted from 28th August to 21st September 2015, focusing on short and medium haul flights in Europe. The second phase was conducted from 4th February to 7th March 2016, focusing on short, medium and long haul flights in Latin America and Asia Pacific, together with long haul in Europe.


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