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Wi-Fi in the Sky: Take off of Inflight- Connectivity Services is only a matter of time

By Nile Suwansiri, Chief Commercial Officer at Thaicom

With Internet connections becoming more and more ubiquitous, consumers’ expectations are continuing to grow. Whether they are walking through rural hills, travelling on public transport or even flying at 35,000 feet, people want to be connected anywhere and everywhere – and probably for free. Consequently, the outlook for In-Flight Connectivity has never looked better.

Generating around $440 million in revenue from airline passengers in 2013, In-Flight Connectivity certainly seems to have a bright future. Each year, more than three billion people travel on airplanes, meaning an average of 8.2 million people each and every day. Experts predict this will double by 2032 making for a lot of potential surfing of the World Wide Web while sky high. It is also an important connection for airlines looking to tap the resource of a captive digital audience.

While the number of connected planes is relatively low at present, the number of planes with broadband connectivity is expected to more than double over the next five years. Furthermore, airlines are continually ordering new aircraft and may find it cheaper to have the capability to offer Wi-Fi included at the time of building, rather than reworking transport in their current fleets.

Satellite is the key to providing high performance and economical IFC services that will be valued by passengers and while it is a fairly young area for the satellite industry, it is also a very buoyant one and relatively high download and upload speeds are already being achieved on commercial aircraft, opening the door to new opportunities and areas for potential growth for both satellite operators and airlines.

In order to take advantage of the new opportunities IFC services offer, reliability and affordability are also essential. As the first Asian satellite operator to launch IFC using Ku-band, Thaicom’s IFC service enables aircraft users to send and receive data via several wireless access points installed on the plane.

The service is capable of delivering 3G-like speed for a superior in-flight broadband experience and, in addition to giving passengers in-flight Wi-Fi, also opens up the possibility for live-streaming of entertainment, and aircraft operations services, including aircraft tracking and nose-to-tail connectivity of aircraft, enabling airlines to track the health of their aircraft in service. Thaicom’s value proposition includes regulatory clearances from both the avionics and telecom regulatory bodies.