LiFi is coming to the Airbus Corporate Jet product line. The company signed an agreement with Latécoère Interconnection Systems to develop The ACJ Smart LiFi Monitor, a new and unique In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) technology.
The new platform will allow for connectivity between head-end servers and the IFE screens across multiple communications channels, including light-based LiFi, a segment Latécoère dominates today.
We are convinced that Li-Fi will revolutionize in-flight connectivity within the next 5 years.– Yannick Assouad, Former CEO of Latécoère (now EVP Avionics @ Thales), hyping the product in an earlier interview
The ACJ Smart LiFi Monitor is designed to be an easy plug and play solution. It includes a 4K monitor offering Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LiFi connectivity options. It also allows analog audio output, USB-C ports, and HDMI connections. Features include Audio Video On Demand (AVOD), casting, mirroring, web browser, live television, and its own integrated video conferencing.
The system will be eligible for retrofit into the 200+ existing ACJ aircraft flying today or added as a new-build option going forward. It is expected to be available to jet owners by the end of the year.
Latécoère previously announced a deal with lighting company Signify and aerospace supplier Huneed Technologies to scale up LiFi systems manufacture to commercial levels. The Signify Trulifi system combines energy-efficient LED lighting with a reliable, secure and high-speed two-way wireless connection. The system boasts speeds up to 250 Mbps for both downlink and the uplink.
From commercial to business to commercial?
The first in-flight LiFi solution from Latécoère operated on board an Air France commercial flight in October 2019, bringing a new means for high speed data transmission into service. During that flight a subset of seats on board had IFE screens installed to support a e-gaming tournament in the sky.
The LiFi system delivered high bandwidth and low latency communications to the seatback entertainment systems. This allowed the gamers to compete against each other during the flight for the title and a trip to the Ubisoft headquarters in Montreal as a grand prize.
The company has since been relatively quiet about pushing the platform further into the commercial aircraft market. The opportunity to further develop it for business jet customers represents a small but significant segment. With the new platform fully developed and productized for the BizAv market it could then transition back to regular passenger planes as a solution ready to fly.
Whether this proves compelling for airline customers remains to be seen. Radio spectrum congestion is a challenge on board, but one that so far has been managed through the existing technology platforms available. Sill, there’s always potential for something new to take hold.
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