Greater use of passengers’ own devices may be the key to the future development of IFEC. That was the message from Leo Mondale, President Inmarsat Aviation, speaking at a session on cabin flexibility at the Passenger Experience Conference in Hamburg.
Speaking on the eve of this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo, Mondale said we need to give passengers freedom of choice.
“That may mean taking advantage of the hardware that is already in their bag,” he said.
He added that embedded IFEC is always going to be two product cycles behind what passengers are already using due to the regulatory processes aircraft manufacturers and OEMS have to go through.
“Technology is moving at a fantastic pace. With a certification process that takes two years, by the time the hardware is switched on it is already two stages behind in the development cycle. The bleeding edge is where cooperation really matters.” said Mondale.
“Hardware is not very flexible. Software is more adaptable – the connectivity can connect you to anything on the aircraft.
“We need to give passengers freedom of choice. And that means taking advantage of the hardware that the passenger brings on board.”
Mondale outlined the massive changes currently taking place that give passengers access to real-time satellite-delivered IPTV instead of relying on the content on aircraft servers.
Greater bandwidth from services like Inmarsat’s 50mbps Global Xpress Ka-band service, and ViaSat’s Exede in the Air, are changing what can be delivered to an aircraft.
Global Xpress is due for a full worldwide roll-out later this year once the third of its trio of Boeing-built I-5 satellites is launched. ViaSat is already delivering fast Ka-band broadband to customers like JetBlue.
“Passengers can’t get enough of access to content on the ground, so let’s extend that experience in the air,” Mondale said.
“It is becoming quite clear that there is a difference between the experience that they can get at home, compared with what they get in the air.
“We’ve got to find some way of getting over some of these barriers to technological development. The IFEC solution can already be obsolete by the time it is on the aircraft,” he said.
Zuzanna Hrnkova, Head of Aircraft Interiors Marketing, Airbus, said: “At the moment we recommend that wireless IFE is offered alongside embedded IFE. The technological developments needed to support a whole aircraft via Wi-Fi is not quite there yet.”
Mondale concluded: “We are on the verge of a massive change, both in terms of the technology and the economics. What will happen next no-one really knows.”