IFC reaches major milestone for the industry – Valour Consultancy is excited to announce that, for the first time, our longstanding quarterly in-flight connectivity (IFC) tracker service recorded more than 10,000 commercial aircraft equipped with IFC.
The landmark figure was reached in Q4 2022 and serves as proof of the market’s resilient growth in the post-COVID era.
For context, it took around eight years for the industry to reach 5,000 connected aircraft following the first installation of the then OnAir in-flight mobile service in 2007. And were it not for COVID-19-and the subsequent retirement of a number of connected aircraft, delays to planned equipage and the prolonged grounding of the 737 MAX, the leap from 5,000 to 10,000 connected jets would doubtless have occurred much more quickly.
Current State of Play: Intelsat and Panasonic Avionics
Intelsat remains the vendor with the largest installed base (as it has since acquiring Gogo back in 2020). The company is providing its IFC solution to more than 3,000 active commercial aircraft, accounting for over 30% of the market. It also recently announced a partnership with LEO satellite operator, OneWeb, which aims to futureproof the firm’s offering with a multi-orbit service.
The next largest IFC service provider (in terms of equipped aircraft) is Panasonic Avionics, which provides connectivity to more than 2,200 active commercial aircraft – accounting for 22% of the total market. Like Intelsat, the company has also signed a deal with OneWeb and has said that it expects to begin supporting aircraft with LEO services in the second half of 2023, although we would question this ambition and see 2024 as a more realistic timeline.
Viasat is another major player in the market and has the fastest growing installed base of any provider, as well as the largest backlog of contracted aircraft. The number of Viasat-equipped aircraft has almost doubled since Q1 2020, from approximately 860 aircraft to just over 1,600 in Q4 2022. The US satellite operator has big ambitions and is edging closer to launching its next-generation constellation, ViaSat-3. The new satellites will increase Viasat’s total capacity by around 600% and promise to have a significant impact on the IFC market by expanding the company’s reach globally. The first ViaSat-3 satellite, ViaSat-3A, is scheduled to enter commercial service in Q1 2023 and will provide coverage over the Americas. The second will span the Europe, Middle East and Africa region (EMEA), and the third will cover Asia-Pacific. Viasat is expecting there to be a six-month gap between ViaSat-3 launches.
Other IFC Providers
Other major service providers include Anuvu and Inmarsat, the former of which has approximately 1,000 active commercial aircraft equipped with its service, while the latter has around 700. It is, however, worth noting that this only includes aircraft served directly by Inmarsat and the company’s market share is considerably higher if aircraft contracted through value added resellers (VARs) are included. Indeed, when you add into the equation the likes of SITA for Aircraft, Thales and RoKKi, its share of total connected aircraft rises to just under 17%. Should the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) approve the merger between Inmarsat and Viasat, the combined entity’s market share (including VARs), would rise to roughly 34%, enough to dislodge Intelsat from pole position in the rankings.
Key Wins and Announcements
In recent months, the IFEC industry has seen some exciting developments. Inmarsat has signed a deal to provide IFC for Qatar Airways’ 787-9 and 737-10 fleets. Delta Air Lines will begin offering free Wi-Fi on its Viasat-equipped domestic flights starting February 1, 2023 and aims to have all of its aircraft offer free Wi-Fi by the end of 2024. And JSX (an independent air carrier that operates point-to-point flights within the United States and Mexico) is slated to complete the roll-out of SpaceX’s Starlink service in Q2 2023. More recently, airBaltic announced that it has also entered into a partnership with SpaceX and plans to equip all of its Airbus A220-3 aircraft with Starlink starting in 2023.
Onwards and Upwards!
The continued growth of the IFEC industry is inevitable. The increase in available capacity, coming from GEO constellation expansions and new NGSO operators entering the market, will result in the cost of connectivity for airlines decreasing considerably over the next 5-10 years. Alongside this, the evolution of a rapidly growing ecosystem of digital services helps make the business model around connectivity much more compelling for airlines.
Furthermore, as an ever-increasing number of airlines – particularly those in regions with a relatively low adoption rate of IFC – connect their aircraft, the expectation from passengers that they will have in flight Internet access rises and places further pressure on unconnected airlines to meet passenger demand. Indeed, passengers increasingly expect to receive a consistent connected experience across a whole fleet. If someone has experienced a good service on a narrowbody in North America, they don’t expect a significant drop off when they’re flying on a regional jet from the same carrier.
Future Connectivity Options
This is currently an issue for many airlines, however, it is set to change. The emergence of new electronically steered antennas (ESAs) and cost effective LEO connectivity in the coming years will make it easier for airlines to offer a consistent coverage across their entire fleet. Valour Consultancy will be covering connectivity options in the regional jet market in a new blog soon.
SpaceX Starlink IFC Service
It will be particularly interesting to see how SpaceX’s Starlink IFC service performs in the coming years as it begins to roll out across a wider range of aircraft. The satellite operator is entering the market with a radically different business model to its existing competitors. Airlines have greeted Starlink’s plans with excitement, but a healthy dose of scepticism remains. The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding.
What can Valour Consultancy’s IFEC Tracker do for me ?
Valour Consultancy’s IFE and IFC trackers offer an unparalleled insight into installation activities and key trends shaping the market. Published quarterly, these granular datasets provide a breakdown of all aircraft equipped and under contract to be equipped with IFEC systems. Included are details of more than 27,500 commercial aircraft and over 1,000 airlines, making it the most comprehensive resource for IFEC analysis available.
Since 2016, the trackers have been a trusted source of information for hundreds of airline buyers, industry investors, and stakeholders from across the IFEC supply chain. Our data helps subscribers to:
- Track investment potential (market sizing).
- Benchmark against competitors and collaborators.
- Enhance understanding of the IFEC market landscape.
- Inform strategic and tactical decision-making.
For more information on these services, or to arrange a demonstration of the data, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.