A new report from Juniper Research (www.juniperresearch.com) has valued operator in-flight roaming revenues at nearly $3 billion by 2020, doubling the value estimated for this year. This figure includes mobile voice, data and SMS.
However, in terms of total operator billed mobile roaming revenues, in-flight roaming will only represent around 5% of revenues globally by 2020. The new research noted that these revenues will largely be driven by increasing data usage while on-board an aircraft. It argued that these would primarily stem from consumers being attracted by a combination of price reductions –the result of reduced retail roaming charges – and an increase in the availability of higher speed data services (2.5G to 3G & 4G).
Unsurprisingly, the increasing number of service introductions by airlines has translated into an increasing number of active users over the past 12 months, according to Juniper Research. For example, AeroMobile reported a 56% increase in the number of passengers using in-flight roaming in the first half (H1) of 2015, compared to H1 2014.
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, according to Juniper Research. The study 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.
“High in-flight mobile roaming charges will continue to be a key hurdle for the industry,” said research author Nitin Bhas. “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.”