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In-flight connectivity in Africa worth mega-millions

Posted 7 February 2019 · Add Comment

Inmarsat unveiled its white paper ‘In-flight connectivity – a new opportunity for African aviation’ at the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) annual general assembly in November. Steve Nichols reports.

Inmarsat believes that in-flight connectivity could be worth $587 million to airlines in the region by 2035.
It cites Africa’s rising interest in mobile telecommunications, with the Financial Times likening the mobile phone’s influence on sub-Saharan Africa to that of the steam train on 19th century Europe, the workhorse that drove social and economic transformation.
Inmarsat says passengers will want to continue their mobile experience while on flights in the region.
The telecommunications giant is keen to promote the economic possibilities that might be opened up by airlines installing its GX Aviation satellite-based in-flight connectivity solution, which, it says, can give passengers an “at home” internet experience, even at 35,000 feet.
High-quality Wi-Fi can also provide airlines with new ancillary revenue streams from Wi-Fi access payment, in-flight e-commerce, digital advertising sales and premium-priced, streamed in-flight entertainment.
According to Sky High Economics, a study of the commercial impact of in-flight connectivity by the London School of Economics and Political Science, showed broadband-enabled ancillary revenues in Africa would grow from just over $10 million in 2018 to more than $306 million by 2028.
Inmarsat’s in-flight connectivity survey, 2018, found two-thirds of those who felt that Wi-Fi was fundamental to daily life believed in-flight Wi-Fi was a necessity.
Increased mobile penetration also brought higher levels of device ownership; meaning passengers had their own tech on board and increasingly expected to be able to use it.
The company says its believes air travel has the potential to accelerate economic growth and development in Africa, connecting markets both within and outside the continent, and opening up new ones, while also fostering further investment and innovation – including tourism – throughout the continent.
Ben Griffin, Inmarsat Aviation vice president MEA and APAC, said: “Inmarsat and our partners have made significant investments in Africa and we are committed to helping shape a more connected and digital continent.
“As the only operator of a fully owned and managed global network providing high-speed broadband to both cabin and cockpit, Inmarsat and partners are working with the airlines in the African continent to help them realise their potential through connectivity.
“Our value-added partners all have a presence in Africa and can offer equipment, installation, tailored service plans, and custom applications to help airlines manage, optimise and benefit from their investments.
“Armed with this white paper and a renewed focus, the Inmarsat Aviation team is pro-actively taking our in-flight connectivity story to the market.
“We are also a member of the Smart Africa Alliance, so we are already very well established in key initiatives in our other businesses.”
Inmarsat says it isn’t just commercial aviation that could benefit from the uptake of in-flight connectivity. For business aviation passengers, the ability to stay connected means they can maximise their productivity while in the air.
African Business Magazine reported that Nigeria is the fastest-growing private jet market in the world after China. And, according to figures compiled by Corporate Jet Investor, South Africa is 11th in the world in terms of jet registries, ahead of countries such as Australia, France and Switzerland.
Jet ConneX, Inmarsat’s satellite-based solution for Africa’s increasing number of business and private jet operators, provides in-flight connectivity right across the continent.
“The beauty of Inmarsat’s Jet ConneX is the true global nature of the coverage, which makes it an ideal choice for the business sector within Africa and beyond,” said Griffin
“With Africa’s growing economies and challenges facing commercial routes, smaller, privately owned aircraft have a bigger part to play.
“We see there being a steady increase of aircraft year-on-year with further roll-outs of connected business aircraft in the coming years.
“Many of our competitors with Ku-band don’t have the luxury of being able to deploy meaningful coverage over Africa, so the performance simply isn’t there to supply smaller, privately owned aircraft or meet the high demands of VVIP and heads-of-state.”
 

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