In-Flight Entertainment Coming To Your Tablet, Smartphone and Laptop

In-flight Wi-Fi is about to get a lot slower. Yesterday, in-flight entertainment company Row 44 announced that they’re about to change the nature of in-flight entertainment. No longer will passengers on planes without personal entertainment screens in seatbacks have to bring their own videos if they want to avoid the selections provided by the airline. Now Wi-Fi enabled devices — laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc — will be able to stream Row 44 content. This will include movies and television shows from partnering studios Disney, Universal, Twentieth Century FOX, and Warner Bros plus a choice of live streaming channels from IPTV.

I like the concept because it allows airlines to offer personal entertainment options without having to upgrade planes and raise the price of tickets. However, I’m not sure it’ll be great in practice. In-flight Wi-Fi is prone to overload and slow connections if too many people use it at once. Plus, the way this Wi-Fi works, you may be sharing bandwidth not only with the other people on your flight, but people on other flights in the vicinity.

Southwest Airlines plans to offer Row 44 in-flight entertainment via Wi-Fi later this year

Just yesterday I tried to stream Netflix and YouTube on a Delta flight and encountered huge buffer times. Perhaps Row 44 will upgrade their broadband offerings or adjust the quality of the stream so as to deliver a good experience to passengers. But until I see the results, I’m remaining dubious.

So far there’s no indications of pricing, but my hope is that it won’t cost any more than the price of getting on your plane’s Wi-Fi. At least one airline is already on board for 2011. Southwest’s Chief Marketing Officer Dave Ridley said that the company is “very excited about unveiling this service later this year.”

Hat Tip: SlashGear

  

Comments

  1. Caleb MacLachlan says

    Your objection *should* be entirely irrelevant, because Row 44 should have the data stored onboard the plane, not be streaming it from the internet. A wifi router that can support 100 connections isn’t hard or even expensive. A broadband connection which could support that many people streaming at once is a totally different matter. Having a local connection which allows people to download an Apple/Android app and then stream content off a local server is brilliant – No outside network infrastructure required. It could also be implemented very inexpensively, and the airline could also capitalize by renting out viewer tablets for a small fee (the tablets could also have regular android market games on them) 

    • Tripdoor says

      Very good clarification. A distinction must be made between streaming of onboard server-cached content and streaming live from the Internet. The latter is definitely more difficult as more users and planes share a common pipe. What all providers are pushing these days is server-content streaming to WiFi devices. A problem remains: if too many users try to stream simultaneously on an aircraft, WiFi access points can only handle so many connections at once. The better the resolution, the less users that can stream. This remains the biggest issue, especially for larger aircraft.

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