In-flight roaming revenues will hit $3 billion by 2020, doubling the value estimated for this year, according to a new report from Juniper Research.
In-flight roaming use is set to explode over the next five years as passengers metaphorically clamber over their seats for mobile voice, data and SMS.
While in-flight roaming will only represent around 5% of mobile revenues globally by 2020, these revenues will largely be driven by increasing data usage. This would primarily emanate from consumers being attracted by a combination of reduced retail roaming charges and an increase in the availability of higher speed data such as 3G and 4G.
The research observed that while in-flight roaming trends closely follow terrestrial roaming trends, roaming charges continue to be significantly higher. For example, Vodafone NZ charges $2.3 per minute for making a voice call and $13 per MB for data usage on selected airlines. Meanwhile, Vodafone UK charges $5 per MB for up to 5MB, then $27 for every 5MB after that; for voice it charges approximately $3 for making a call.
Nearly all traffic, whether free or paid for, is delivered via a satellite and there are inherent satellite charges to be included. The research found that while there is great uncertainty amongst stakeholders on how this market will develop, in-flight mobile service providers will continue to bundle satellite charges into their wholesale roaming packages.
Research author Nitin Bhas added: “High in-flight mobile roaming charges will continue to be a key hurdle for the industry. Given the steep pricing levels for in-flight roaming, the average annual spend per mobile roamer on in-flight and maritime roaming services will only represent a modest increase over the forecast period.”