Panasonic Avionics says it is unlikely that wireless in-flight entertainment systems will be adopted by airframers or airlines in the near term.

"Life is so much easier with a wire," Panasonic director of strategic product marketing David Bruner told Flight International at September's World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition in Toronto. He also says that wireless IFE "didn't yield the weight benefits" it had promised.

Earlier this year Boeing ditched plans to fit cutting-edge wireless IFE technology to the 787, citing concerns over whether sufficient numbers of processing chips could be made available in time to meet its ambitious 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. Speculation was rife at the WAEA show that Boeing is seeking another IFE system supplier for the 787.

Bruner says he does not envisage wireless IFE on the 787 and does not expect Boeing to adopt wireless for the 747-8. He adds that Panasonic continues to keep monitor wireless technology, however.

Thales concurs that wireless IFE is not on the immediate horizon. "We're still doing some wireless testing - doing the ground work for the future, but it's not going on an aircraft anytime soon," said Thales Aerospace North America chief executive Brad Foreman earlier this year.

 © Boeing
Wireless IFE will not be a feature of the Boeing 787's cabin

Alaska Airlines is planning to offer satellite-based broadband connectivity to its passengers, after signing an agreement with Row 44 that is expected to result in fleetwide installations of the California-based company's system.

Under the terms of the Alaska agreement, the carrier will test Row 44's system on a Boeing Next Generation 737 in the early next year. Passengers with wi-fi-enabled devices will have high-speed access to the internet, email, virtual private networks and stored in-flight entertainment content. Based on the trial's outcome, the carrier's 114-strong fleet will be equipped.

Source: Flight International