Last updated: 11:30 AM ET, Tue August 30 2016

European Travelers May Soon Have More Abundant In-Flight Wi-Fi

Airlines & Airports | Gabe Zaldivar | August 30, 2016

European Travelers May Soon Have More Abundant In-Flight Wi-Fi

Photo courtesy Thinkstock

Things are going to get a lot faster over European skies.

While the story reported by Bloomberg’s Michael Scaturro on the continent’s carriers doesn’t deal with the speed of planes, it does promise that Internet access will become more abundant in the coming years.

For anyone wanting to send off missives at 35,000 feet or boast openly about your escapades on social media may have an easier time doing just that thanks to a renewed interest for European carriers to offer Wi-Fi access to its respective guests.

One solution is to come at the problem by land and by space as Bloomberg reports on the partnership between Inmarsat Plc, which will offer satellites, and Deutsche Telekom AG, which will promise the Internet punch from towers on the ground.

It’s this partnership that is particularly promising as it has the potential to offer more cost efficient service.

As Scaturro writes, Wi-Fi access, particularly in the European market, is largely absent due to European Union obstacles as well as the high cost of service. The report cites Tim Farrar, president of TMF Associates and former president of the Mobile Satellite Users Association, who explains that infrastructure amounts to a bill in the hundreds of thousands.

Via Bloomberg: “Ground-based systems can cost $100,000 per aircraft to install, while satellite services cost $350,000 to $500,000 per plane.”

Despite the high cost, Scaturro points to brand loyalty as a major incentive for airlines to come onboard and offer something many of us take for granted the moment we step off the plane and into the airport.

Internet access, sadly, is a tenuous assumption when you board a plane. It’s indeed better for American carriers as the report states 75 percent of planes domestically offer some sort of Internet solution, but things are looking up as ViaSat Inc. and Panasonic Corp. have eyes on Europe, which may just represent an untapped marvel of a market.

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Bloomberg spoke with Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce who explained that, as Scaturro writes, “the global market for airline Wi-Fi coverage will be $4 billion to $5 billion a year by the end of the decade.”

It seems inevitable that the day will come when Internet access is as ubiquitous in the air as it is on the ground.

Granted, we are mired by expensive technology that tends to drive up the price of the service. Yet, it’s clear that the market’s expectation will fuel an evolution that is already starting to take place an ocean away. 

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