Largely only a trial offering today, wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE) is forecasted to reach a global install-base of nearly 9,000 aircraft by 2021, revolutionising how passengers are entertained, able to communicate outside of the plane, and manage their on-going travel, according to a new report by IMS Research, a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
“In-flight Wi-Fi and cellular communication is becoming increasingly common, particularly in the US, and today 1,000s of aircraft are fitted with equipment that allows passengers to connect to the internet,” says Alastair Hayfield, Research Director, IMS Research. “Today US airlines like SouthWest and Delta are offering in-flight internet access. However, the aim for many airlines is to be able to offer many other services wirelessly, vastly improving the travelling experience for everyone.”
At the moment, traditional IFE is usually available in the seat back or from the cabin roof. However, a new wireless solution is emerging that is removing the need for cabling, and removing the need for ‘fixed’ IFE systems altogether. Wireless IFE – sometimes known as wireless content distribution – beams media such as video, TV, games and audio, around the cabin to be received on passengers’ tablets, smartphones, or airlines’ own handheld devices.
Benefits of Wireless IFE to airlines include:
* Delivering better in-flight customer service by enabling passengers to check on-going connecting flight information, gate numbers, make hotel reservations, book theatre tickets, and research and plan-ahead sight-seeing or other entertainment activities
* Achieving weight reduction and overall economy by removing seat-back systems and wiring
* The opportunity to create a new revenue stream by charging passengers for wireless IFE access
* And the facility for budget airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair – currently with no IFE service – the ability to offer new, value-added services
“The inevitable take-off of wireless IFE has clear benefits to both the industry and passengers alike,” Hayfield adds. “Until very recently we have all been cut-off from the outside world when flying, dependent on a limited program of entertainment, or reliant upon our own media. But very soon we will all be able to access not only online content, but be able to communicate with family, friends and colleagues, keep tabs on on-going travel plans – anticipate and contingency-plan around potentially missed flights or delays.”