In-Flight Mobile Roaming Revenues to Reach $3Bn by 2020

A new report from Juniper Research 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, Mobile Roaming: Regulations, Opportunities & Emerging Sectors 2015-2020, 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. For example, AeroMobile reported a 56% increase in the number of passengers using in-flight roaming in H1 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. 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.”

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