Kontron outlines recent developments in inflight Wi-Fi

A passenger using an iPad on an aircraft.Kontron has issued a document entitled “Beyond Wireless IFE” that explains some of the issues surrounding the use of wireless access points (WAPs) and Wi-Fi onboard an aircraft.

The company says wireless technology is dramatically expanding traditional in-flight entertainment (IFE) features with connectivity improvements to the aircraft while it is on the ground (3G/4G LTE) and in-flight (air-to-ground and air-to-satellite).

Kontron says that as a result, operators are able to improve their customer’s total experience, reduce costs by saving time and operational expenses, and optimise decision making with big data analytics.

It adds that onboard services, ranging from online shopping and reservations to destination information, real-time travel information and seat-to-seat chat capabilities, are generating new revenue opportunities for the airlines and providing more choices for the passenger.

The report says wireless avionics platforms have advanced to offer cost-effective and lightweight solutions that deliver full Wi-Fi connectivity in the main cabin, enabling airlines to differentiate their services and embrace more sophisticated IFE options.

It adds that simplifying wireless IFE deployment is essential to this evolution. “Solutions must help not only to reduce costs and complexity,” it says, “but also meet growing passenger expectations to consistently keep up with technology they have come to expect on the ground.”

Kontron warns that legacy wireless access points using 802.11a/b/g wireless standards are unable to support high throughput to an extended number of users.

The newer 802.11n standard can offer up a theoretical 600Mbps in the cabin, and the latest 802.11ac standard more than doubles this to 1,300Mbps. But Kontron says that actual data rates are often significantly less than the theoretical standards.

Kontron capitalises on the latest IEEE 802.11 specification with its 802.11ac Cab-n-Connect A100 wireless access point (CWAP), which significantly increases data throughput in contrast to earlier generation solutions based on 802.11n.

The Kontron CWAP uses technology advancements such as 3X3 Multiple-Input/Multiple-Output (MIMO) performance, which relies on dual Wi-Fi radios (2.4GHz and 5GHz) capable of supporting three spatial data streams.

Test results show a single Kontron CWAP can stream video to more than 100 of the latest client devices using the 802.11ac protocol.

The 802.11ac standard was developed from 2011 to 2013 and approved in January 2014. It uses an advanced modulation technique called 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM).

The CWAP is also backwards compatible with earlier 802.11 standards to ensure interoperability through the use of simultaneous dual radio operation. The Cab-n-Connect A100 supports both 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz communications, providing backward compatibility with 802.11 a/b/g/n.

Security is another important feature and the the Cab-n-Connect A100 CWAP features the latest in enterprise-level wireless security, based on the WiNG 5 operating system. This provides a highly-robust distributed architecture that extends QoS, security and mobility services to the CWAPs on the aircraft for better direct routing and network resilience.

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