Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

October 13 2015

This Is Where You Are Always Going To Pay For Wi-Fi

By David McMillin

No matter what role you play in the meetings industry, you’re part of the Wi-Fi conversation that continues to fuel a heated debate. How much do facilities have to invest to upgrade their networks? What’s the number of access points necessary for a massive event? Will our venues be able to accommodate the massive bandwidth required to handle attendees who arrive with loads of devices that keep them tethered to the information network? 

The age of constant connectivity leads many of us to believe that Wi-Fi signals should be everywhere and that they should be free. Hotels, convention centers, parks — no matter where you are, you should have complimentary access, right?

Wrong. One piece of the travel industry will be able to maintain Wi-Fi as a source of revenue: airlines. In a recent survey of more than 6,000 airline passengers conducted by global mobile satellite communications company Inmarsat, 67 percent of respondents indicated that they are willing to pay for the service. Read that again: 67 percent of people are more than happy to pay for Wi-Fi. When is the last time you heard attendees say they are completely fine with paying for Internet access in their hotel rooms?

SEE ALSO: 4 Predictions For The Next Generation Of Air Travel

Perhaps paying for it is an expectation. After all, we have grown accustomed to paying fees for checked bags, priority boarding and a mile-long list of other services at the airport and on flights. However, Wi-Fi with a price tag isn’t just another fee to most passengers. Instead, it seems to be one of the key potential positive differentiators for airline passengers. In fact, 69 percent of respondents said they would choose a carrier based on whether they offer Wi-Fi on flights. Forget earning miles; travelers just want to check their email and follow their friends on social media.

In the future, it looks like they’ll be able to do in-the-air work at on-the-ground speeds. In August, the FAA gave Gogo approval to begin testing a new satellite connectivity service that should deliver at a speed of more than 70 megabits per second. That’s more than seven times faster than the speed on the majority of commercial US planes today. In Europe, Lufthansa recently announced that it will work with Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom to offer peak speeds of 75 megabits per second. 

With speeds that fast, what will the in-flight experience look like? Will passengers make Skype calls and FaceTime with friends and family? Could the person sitting next to you conduct a GoToMeeting complete with HD video? While no one can be sure about how super fast Wi-Fi will change the passenger experience, one reality seems certain. It won’t be free.

“With a majority of passengers across all age groups willing to pay for onboard connectivity, this is an opportunity that the airline industry simply cannot afford to miss,” Leo Mondale, President, Inmarsat Aviation, says.

Want to know why you may be better off paying for Wi-Fi at your next meeting, too? Click here to check out some of the reasons why free isn’t always the best deal.

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