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HDTV to gain altitude in airline industry

Apr 23, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Thanks to a partnership between 2netFX and Avolo, HDTV may soon be flying the friendly skies. 2netFX, a developer of enterprise streaming solutions for intranet and broadband Internet media delivery, and Avolo, an online provider of aviation parts and aerospace applications, have joined together to supply airlines with live HDTV broadcasts.
“When you talk about entertainment you have a very discerning customer,” said William Reed, vice president of sales and marketing for 2netFX. “We don’t like to watch jerky video on a small screen. We’re trying to provide a way for airlines to take a step up in quality without having to take a huge step up in cost to deliver it.”
2netFX, which was the first company to offer multicast streaming of HDTV over ordinary networks, will demonstrate this next generation of in-flight entertainment at the National Association of Broadcasters convention (Booth E5545, Sands E-topia section). Included in the demonstration will be an HDTV set and actual airline seats.
“We’ll be showing the technology, how it would look and basically what it could be,” Mr. Reed said.
In addition to the booth demonstration, 2netFX will hold a news conference from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. April 23 in Room 105/205 of the Sands. Mr. Reed said the company will highlight its newest enterprise streaming solutions for rich-media content-delivery technologies as well as provide information about the In-flight Entertainment Consortium, which was recently formed by 2netFX and Avolo.
“The IFEC is dedicated to superior technology and a kind of democratization of content,” said Peter Berghammer, vice president of sales and marketing for Avolo and co-founder of the IFEC. “U.S. content is a nice thing, but since we have the ability to offer in some cases over 100 channels, we felt it would be great … to bring much more diverse programming into the aircraft. To date, consumers [have said], `I’m happy just to get three channels.’ But studies indicate that within the next four to six years consumers will be making choices based on the type of entertainment available in an aircraft.”
Mr. Berghammer said 2netFX and Avolo originally partnered to expand their businesses into new markets. With the creation of the IFEC, additional companies-which will be announced at NAB-have joined the duo to further enhance the consortium’s technological offerings.
“Each of us brings a unique capability to the whole thing,” Mr. Berghammer said. “The role of the IFEC is really to synthesize the different technologies and apply them to particular markets.”
Though airline deals have yet to be announced-Mr. Berghammer said he hopes to release more information at the Paris Air Show in June-Mr. Reed said the HDTV technology would most likely be found in business- and first-class cabins of international flights, where there would be enough room to install an HDTV set.
“It certainly could be on any airline,” said Mr. Reed, who noted the group is in the “exploration and design” phase. “The question would be how they want to deploy it. The neat thing about our technology is that you can watch it on an ordinary computer monitor. You could also have flight attendants hand out these new tablets with a nice, decent-size screen, and you can watch it that way.”
While Mr. Reed said 2netFX is the only company doing in-flight HDTV streaming, the group does face the challenge of who ultimately chooses the in-flight entertainment technology-the airline or the equipment manufacturer.
“Boeing has an in-flight system they’re using,” Mr. Berghammer said. “They made the decision that if they can bring it from the point the aircraft is built, airlines will automatically go for it. We looked at it a little differently. We believe the consumers will start driving what the airlines are going to want onboard the aircraft. It’s our belief our system is superior.”
Though the IFEC is focusing on in-flight entertainment, the group is also looking to bring its HDTV streaming video technology to other industries and other modes of transportation. Mr. Reed said they are talking with customers in the passenger train and cruise ship industries, and Mr. Berghammer said public transportation is also a possibility.
“When you look at some of the newer subway systems, I see tremendous potential for things like city info or tourist info or even traffic info,” he said. “Not necessarily on every seat, but somewhere in a central location.”
Added Mr. Reed, “We see this as the way of the future.”