Air Passengers Demand Better In-Flight Broadband

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Inmarsat survey reveals growing calls for high-speed Internet on planes

A new survey of air passengers across Europe has revealed an increasing demand for high-speed broadband internet access on planes.

That’s according to Inmarsat, which surveyed more than 6,000 airline passengers across the continent, and found that more than 60 percent said that they need in-flight connectivity.

Overall, 80 percent of those surveyed would use in-flight Wi-Fi if given the opportunity, the report found, with a similar proportion (83 percent) saying they expected to see universal internet connectivity across all aircraft in the future.

Flying high

In airplane © – Fotolia.comIn the meantime, however, many passengers said they would be willing to pay for high-speed and reliable connectivity, which was reported by 67 percent of all age groups, rising to 69 percent of 18-44 year olds.

67 percent of passengers said that they would feel more valued by an airline that offers in-flight connectivity, and 69 percent would even choose a carrier which provides the service.

“In a highly competitive environment, where airlines are vying to stand out from the crowd, onboard connectivity is a powerful differentiator,” said Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation.

“Connected passengers are happier passengers, who not only feel more valued by their airline, but would go as far as opting for a carrier that provides in-flight Wi-Fi over one which doesn’t. Additionally, with a majority of passengers across all age groups willing to pay for onboard connectivity, this is an opportunity that the airline industry simply cannot afford to miss.

“It is imperative that airlines look at how to respond to this demand today and look beyond a short-term answer, to a partner that can meet future demand.”

Inmarsat, which holds S-band spectrum licenses across all 28 EU member states, recently announced that its planned satellite-powered in-flight broadband service is to be strengthened by an LTE ground network built and operated by Deutsche Telekom, with Lufthansa to be the first airline to be connected as part of a trial next year.

The ‘European Aviation Network’ will eventually cover all major European air routes, providing commercial and business airlines with connectivity that promises to be as good as passengers’ home broadband.

Each of these sites will have a range of 80km – eight times the standard range of an LTE site – and is capable of transmitting data at the operating altitude and speed of an aircraft.

Air travel has long been considered the final refuge of those wishing to avoid phone calls, text messages and the Internet, but this sanctuary is slowly being eroded as more airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi.

A number of US carriers and Australia’s Qantas have offered connections for some time, while Virgin Atlantic already offers high speed connectivity on some transatlantic flights from Europe after the Branson-branded airline agreed a deal with Gogo late last year. Budget carrier Ryanair is also considering offering Wi-Fi as part of its push to attract more business passengers.

However some security researchers have raised concerns that such systems might be used by hackers to control aircraft systems.

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