Wireless IFE in focus with Bluebox on A380 mock-up

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Airbus has commissioned Bluebox Avionics to provide its wireless in-flight entertainment system for inclusion in the A380 demonstration mock-up in Hamburg, in what could potentially prove to be a game-changing decision in the world of IFE.

Since concept launch in September 2005, Bluebox has been steadily developing its wireless audio/video on demand system in parallel to successful deployments of its portable variant known as Bluebox Lite.

The company's commission from Airbus will provide for a version of the wireless IFE product recently deployed on Boeing Business Jet VIP aircraft "and also test Bluebox Avionics' latest software configurations for the 'N' wi-fi variant", says the company.

Bluebox joint managing director Rick Stuart says the system will be installed on the A380 mock-up "the week after next in Hamburg". It is understood that a fully working demonstration system will be operational before the end of the year.

Asked if the system is expected to be flight-tested on an A380, Stuart says that would be "up to Airbus", but he notes that "perhaps we have a greater opportunity with a new [commercial] aircraft".

He declines to comment on whether the company is targeting Airbus's A350 widebody programme.

The Bluebox executive says, however, that the arrangement "underlines our view that we are operating at the very forefront of wireless IFE technology and our aim of pushing the boundaries of accepted IFE system architecture, at an airframe manufacturer level, is being taken very seriously".

Last year Boeing ditched plans to fit cutting-edge wireless IFE technology to the Boeing 787, citing concerns over whether sufficient numbers of processing chips could be made available in time to meet its development schedule for the airframe.

Other issues included potential interference at the wireless system's 5GHz operating frequency, and delays in securing approvals from governments to use that frequency.

Panasonic and Thales responded by adapting their respective 787 IFE systems to meet the change by developing floor distribution boxes in place of the original wireless access points.

Stuart says Bluebox is "not currently working with Boeing".

A joint venture between content provider Phantom Media and AvIT, Bluebox's current commercial airline customers for portable IFE players include BMI, El Al and Iceland Express.