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In-flight entertainment takes off thanks to budget airlines

A new study from Juniper Research entitled 'In-Flight Entertainment & Wi-Fi Connectivity, Market prospects 2015-2020' has found that the adoption of in-flight Wi-Fi by budget airlines will provide a boost to the connected IFE (in-flight entertainment) market.

Juniper’s findings suggest that budget airlines hosting in-flight Wi-Fi will drive the number of connected commercial aircraft to over 10,400 by 2020, which is a threefold increase from an estimated 3,200 this year.

In addition, Juniper also found that in-flight Wi-Fi will make connected IFE attractive to low-cost airlines flying short-haul routes due to the deceasing costs of Wi-Fi hardware now being fitted as line-fit equipment supplied by major aircraft manufacturers.

However, rather than using the embedded seatback screens, many budget airlines are adopting the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach. This strategy allows passengers to use their own devices on-board the aircraft in order to stream airline-owned content. This approach further reduces the airline’s IFE hardware costs.

As a result of the positive outlook for IFE, service providers are positioning themselves as end-to-end providers, capable of offering a full suite of connectivity, content and hardware offerings to their airline customers. Another driver behind inflight Wi-Fi is the increasing availability of Air-To-Ground (ATG) and satellite networks across the world. Juniper’s research found that new advanced ATG networks, such as Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network, would result in lower cost connectivity and higher capacity over high traffic density regions such as Europe.

However, there are some concerns as this BYOD trend raises important safety and security issues as the airlines have little control over these devices. “Airlines must ensure that they address all types of risks, including that of a rogue passenger hacking into an aircraft’s avionic systems or servers, with potentially disastrous consequences”, noted research author Gareth Owen.

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