Broadband-ready passenger planes to near 800

Airlines gearing up to offer passengers in-flight Internet access on significantly more planes by the end of this year than the 25 counted in 2008, according to an In-Stat report.

Those who need their Internet fix while in flight should appreciate a report released on Wednesday by market researcher In-Stat.

The number of commercial airplanes providing broadband access is expected to jump from 25 in 2008 to 800 by end the of 2009, according to the report.

Broadband connectivity is brought to airplanes either through satellite or an air-to-ground network. Both technologies are battling for market share, with Aircell's service based on its own air-to-ground network, and Row44 and Panasonic's service satellite-based.

In-flight broadband has struggled to gain a foothold due to the weak economy and the availability of in-flight entertainment. Other obstacles have included the cost of the service and equipment, difficulty getting regulatory approval for external antennas, and the weight of the equipment adding to fuel costs, In-Stat analyst Daryl Schoolar said in a statement.

But with service and equipment costs down, in-flight broadband providers plan to work with airlines to ramp up service, according to In-Stat. Several U.S. carriers, including American , Delta , and Southwest, are on board to deploy high-speed Internet service on their planes.

In-Stat

In-flight broadband access is expected to generate $47 million in 2009, according to the report, with a projected annual revenue of $1 billion by 2012. The increased revenue will be split among all the players in the value chain, Schoolar said in the statement. "Airlines, service providers, and even hot-spot aggregators will get some of that revenue."

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