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Wi-Fi service in the air started out as a bit of a novelty, but it has since ballooned to encompass nearly 1 out of every 3 U.S. passenger planes. Despite the rapid growth studies have shown that less than 10% of passengers use the service, mostly because it's just too expensive to justify. Regardless of the numbers however, many airlines are reporting that they plan to finish adding this feature to their entire fleet within a few years, so clearly they must be making money somehow.
Aircell continues to lead the pack in terms of installed base in the U.S, but the competition could soon be heating up from a company named Row 44 who just recently managed to clear through the regulatory red tape that slowed their initial rollout. Aircell clearly has the first mover advantage, but Row 44 has the international roaming agreements that could make a difference in the long haul.
As the recession eases and companies loosen up restrictions on expense accounts we may see adoption of in-flight Wi-Fi rise, but it will still be difficult for the individual consumer to justify at $13. Tweeting "I'm texting from 30,000 feet" might sound like tons of fun, but the novelty has worn off long before the charge hits your credit card.
What is in-flight Wi-Fi worth to you? Does it need to be free?