Wellingborough, U.K. | September 25, 2012 — Global installations of in-flight Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity grew by 57 percent to nearly 2,000, in 2011, and are set to increase by a further 60 percent in 2012, reaching 3,194 aircraft by the end of the year, according to the latest statistics published by IMS Research (recently acquired by IHS (NYSE: IHS)).

Wi-Fi is becoming increasingly popular onboard the world’s aircraft, with a projected 2,333 installations by the end of 2012, largely as a result of widespread installations across a number of U.S. airlines. For example, Delta and American Airlines alone will account for more than 1,000 Wi-Fi-enabled aircraft at the end of 2012.

Although Wi-Fi has undoubtedly been the most rapidly adopted method of connectivity, the number of cellular-enabled aircraft is expected to increase by 81 percent in 2012, reaching 411 aircraft by the end of the year. More impressive is the growth of the number of aircraft offering both cellular and Wi-Fi options for passengers, which is set to increase from 99 to 450 through 2012 – an increase of 355 percent.

Heath Lockett, aerospace analyst at IMS Research, commented, “U.S. passengers have been getting used to Wi-Fi for several years now, but some of the most aggressive deployments of connectivity have been in the Middle East and Asia where carriers such as Emirates, Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific are rapidly rolling out cellular and Wi-Fi services. In Europe, Lufthansa is most definitely flying the connectivity flag, although other airlines such as SAS and Norwegian Air Shuttle are providing a good supporting cast.”

With more and more passengers getting used to some form of connectivity in the air, the market is set to continue to grow over the next decade as cellular and, particularly, Wi-Fi services become much more common. For many airlines, it will simply not be acceptable to fail to offer in-flight connectivity if rivals operating on the same route do so. As connectivity moves from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ offering, it is predicted that 15,351 aircraft will be connected by the end of 2021.

Lockett continued, “The future is certainly bright for in-flight connectivity. Consumers have ravenously adopted Wi-Fi and cellular services on the ground, and that looks set to continue above 30,000ft. The big question now is whether airlines can match the speeds that passengers demand – both in terms of the rollout times to fleets, and also the physical speed of the connection to the aircraft. The broadband generation demand a service in the air which is similar to that which they receive on the ground, and that’s the real challenge.”