News that Qantas has decided to extend its trial of Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect wireless IFE solution prompted some industry observers – including this one – to wonder whatever happened to Condor’s planned installation of BoardConnect.
After all, the German holiday carrier was tipped to be one of the first in the world to offer the streaming video service to passengers, announcing a deal with Lufthansa Systems as far back as March 2011. And in fact Condor advertises on its web site that the carrier’s 767 fleet is equipped with the system, noting: “This innovative Wi-Fi-based infotainment system allows passengers to access a great variety of e.g. movies, music or games via implemented screens or personal laptops, tablets, smart phones and other compatible devices.”
So, what’s the hold-up? “Condor is preparing to launch the service as soon as the official certification by EASA is finalised,” Lufthansa Systems manager corporate communications Daniel Radandt tells the APEX editor’s blog. He adds that while a specific date for receiving EASA certification “has not been given”, Lufthansa Systems is “awaiting it to be finalised any time soon”.
BoardConnect will initially be installed in the two latest Boeing 767s in Condor’s fleet, followed by the rest of the carrier’s 767s.
Qantas, meanwhile, will test BoardConnect – branded by the carrier as Q Streaming – for a further six months on a dedicated Boeing 767 (VH-OGH). ”Customers are telling us they really like the innovative Q Streaming product and enjoy the flexibility and ease of use, as well as the extensive content now available,” says Qantas executive manager customer experience Alison Webster.
As part of the trial, passengers can access wirelessly streamed content – now including movies – to airline-provided, repurposed iPads, which are available in each seat pocket and can be attached to the seat-back (see photo below). But Qantas passengers cannot access content via their own devices. “Given the scope of the trial, Qantas will continue to use airline-provided devices for BoardConnect in order to be able to deliver ‘early window’ content,” says Radandt.
Hollywood studios do not permit the streaming of early window movies to passengers’ own devices due to security concerns. But even if Qantas allowed passengers to stream older movie content to their own devices, each device would need to carry the appropriate digital rights management (DRM), as detailed in this prior report by the APEX editor’s blog.
Lufthansa Systems’ BoardConnect is a Microsoft-centric system, and as such, passengers must pre-load the Silverlight app to their portable devices before streaming any movies (when such a service is offered).
“The [Microsoft] PlayReady DRM situation depends a lot on the type of personal device. While most Windows devices already come with a preloaded Silverlight app, it is correct that iOS and Android devices need to have a BoardConnect app installed before take-off. However a preinstalled app does not require an Internet connection while streaming DRM-protected movies, thus there is no need to actually have Internet access on board,” says Radandt.
“Since WI-FI connectivity is available at most airports (or can be provided as a courtesy of the airline) it is a good measure to announce the availability of BoardConnect at the gate, if not even earlier on the airline’s website during the booking, in order to enable all passengers to download the app before take-off. Using any of the apps, meanwhile, does not imply access to early window content on personal devices, which is currently limited to airline-owned devices or in-seat screens.”
The next carrier to offer BoardConnect will be Condor, according to Lufthansa Systems. Virgin America will follow at a later stage.
Virgin America opted for both WI-FI streaming to personal devices as well as for wireless in-seat screens “which requires a new seat that is currently being developed”, says Radandt.
“Apart from that, we are in discussions with a number of major airlines that are interested in the product.”