Inflight Connectivity: challenges and opportunities in Latin America 

Inflight Connectivity: challenges and opportunities in Latin America 

During the last two decades, satellite technology has evolved rapidly, allowing for newer commercial applications, making end-user (residential) connectivity more affordable, and implementing Non-Geostationary Orbit (NGSO) satellite systems looking to provide fast and reliable accessible broadband connectivity.  

These advancements have meant that earth stations no longer need to be tied to one fixed location. This has resulted in the growth of Earth Stations in Motion (ESIMs), which allow for quick and reliable connectivity even where no terrestrial connectivity is available. 

Inflight connectivity (IFC), which is the providing of internet access to aircraft passengers, generated USD 1.9 billion in 2019, and is estimated to grow to USD 6.1 billion by 2029, with optimistic scenarios projecting the market being worth USD 7.5 billion by 2029.

Despite the prediction in growth for IFC, market access obstacles are still present in several jurisdictions, preventing society from benefitting from ubiquitous connectivity solutions and innovations, and thus blocking economic benefits and growth.

Some Latin American jurisdictions still require foreign-registered aircraft to obtain a domestic licence to operate IFC, even to simply fly over their territory. Examples of such countries include Costa Rica and Columbia. In the majority of Latin American countries, the lack of specific ESIM rules mean that undertakings interested in providing IFC services will be coerced into trying to fit their operations in frameworks designed for technologies from the last century. This will make the procedure both costly and burdensome.

Ultimately, as is often the case, this will result in consumers bearing the cost of the regulatory burdens. Alternatively, IFC as a service may not be available in its entirety. For these reasons, administrations should consider revising their frameworks to make them coherent with the technological advancement and services that could be available and affordable for their citizens. 

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