German holiday carrier Condor is still planning to offer Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect wireless in-flight entertainment to passengers, although the time frame for doing so has slipped a little bit to the right, RWG has learned.
The airline is in the process of taking over two aircraft from another airline, and refurbishing them with its own interiors. Once that project is finished, Lufthansa Systems will begin installing BoardConnect on one of the aircraft, a 767, and later on the rest of Condor’s fleet.
“The equipment is ready,” says a spokesman for Lufthansa Systems, a subsidiary of the Lufthansa Group. He adds that the launch “will definitely be within this year”.
BoardConnect is based on a Wi-Fi network which passengers can log on to through seat-back screens or their own laptops, tablet PCs, smartphones or other WiFi-enabled devices to access a range of video and audio on demand, games and other content.
One of the big questions about wireless IFE is whether it can adequately support a plane-full of passengers using the service.
“Regarding the number of people who can use it, if you want, everybody can use it. Every access point we have to install can technically cover 100 devices, but to have redundancy, we are calculating about 60 devices only. So we are installing as many access point as there are groups of 60 people on board,” says the Lufthansa Systems spokesman.
That’s good news, especially since Lufthansa Systems has been tapped to bring wireless IFE to Virgin America’s fleet.
Meanwhile, a vigorous discussion about wireless IFE has been happening over at the LinkedIn in-flight entertainment group.
Ken Bantoft, co-Founder at Satcom Integration (and former EMS dude) notes:
“I’m m pretty sure this will gain traction, as it drastically lowers the cost for the airlines (installing IFE/AVOD Servers + Access points vs. complete seatback IFE system). The bigger question is will consumer grade WiFi (802.11n + future standards) work well enough in a high density environment like a cabin of 200+ people to provide the level of service required. Also – it solves my beef of being able to finish the movie at the hotel, since used to always miss the last 30 minutes if I was using onboard IFE
“802.11n WiFi will handle > 20 people, but not more than about 60 streaming users simultaneously. (Simple Math: 802.11n @ 300mbps / 2.5mbps per stream (SD streams) is 120 @ 100% efficiency. Assuming 50% efficiency and you have 60).
“As for what happens – depending on how well designed the system is, either everyone’s quality will head into ‘buffering…’ hell, or the system should prevent new streams from starting ‘Sorry, please try again later’. Adding access points will help with this, but at some point you hit saturation point of the airwaves and things start to fall down.
“There is a reason vendors are looking at 60ghz WiFi and other technologies for IFE equipment to solve this, but it’s divergent technology, and takes us back to seat back equipment.”
Of course, the honors for bringing the first wireless IFE system to market goes to Gogo, which recently launched its service on American Airlines 767s.