Operator revenue for in-flight roaming, which includes mobile voice, data and SMS is projected to reach nearly $3 billion by 2020, double the value estimated for this year, according to a new report from Juniper Research. 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).
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.