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Market for In-flight Wireless Services

Between January 1 and December 31, 2005, a staggering 1.2 billion passengers will have flown on some 28 million flights worldwide. Historically, passengers have been forbidden to use their mobile communications -- cellular phones or Wi-Fi-equipped portable devices -- in flight. But that is starting to change. Wi-Fi has been installed on a number of airlines, including Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Austrian Airlines. Others intend to follow suit. A whole new market is being created.

A new study from ABI Research provides a comprehensive review and assessment of this complex but potentially lucrative market. Mobile phones were originally banned in flight because they log on to terrestrial networks and cause network management chaos; but they also radiate at their maximum power, and there was concern about possible interference with the aircraft's avionics. Now companies such as Qualcomm, Siemens and Ericsson have developed pico-cell technologies that will allow the use of both GSM and CDMA mobile phones during flights, without causing any interference.

ABI Research believes that the market will develop once the regulatory barriers have been removed. For the next five years, much of the activity will be Wi-Fi related, but as regulatory obstacles to mobile communications are removed, their usage on aircraft will build. "We expect that in-flight mobile communications services will first start in Europe in 2007, Asia will follow, then North America."

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