Last week, when Bluebox slung a little good-natured mud by suggesting that Pansonic and Thales perhaps "weren't up to the challenge" of providing wireless IFE on the Boeing 787, I felt compelled to speak to the two hardware giants about whether or not wireless IFE is now viable, and if it has a place in new aircraft programmes, say for instance, the Airbus A350. Oh yes, and what they each think of Bluebox.
First up, Panasonic. My interview with the manufacturer's director of product marketing Cedric Rhoads focused on three main questions. Here is the first of my queries to Cedric in blue and the first of his oh-so-interesting responses in a box.
1) Is Panasonic still working on wireless IFE solutions (it appears that Airbus is pretty keen to have something for the A350)?
"Whether there is a role or market for wireless IFE is undetermined at this time. We believe that Airbus is not necessarily focused on a wireless IFE solution as much as they are on having an entry-level solution that is easier for Airbus to integrate and deliver. An entry-level solution serves a segment of the market that wants IFE, including AVOD, yet they're willing to sacrifice certain functionality, features and customization in exchange for a lower price and a shorter production configuration cycle."
"Wireless technology has certainly matured to the point where some of the obstacles have been removed. But there are certain trade-offs that you must make. Today's technology does not offer sufficient bandwidth, especially for large widebodies, to support wireless on-demand distribution. It's just not an appropriate solution given the expectation our customers have expressed to us. Do I think it's going to be a long term solution? Perhaps, for some segments of the market, yet the limitations remain, thus, it will exist in parallel to wired systems."
"We were successful in developing a wireless system from a technical standpoint; the design worked, and worked well. We filed more than 25 patents in this design area. But again, wireless distribution simply required too much sacrifice in functionality."
"Panasonic has a solution for the A350. We're adapting the X Series product line to the requirements of the A350's specifications as well as market demands."