Technology

Wi-Fi Takes the Lead in Onboard Entertainment

Nicole Schlosser
Posted on November 2, 2009
Setra offers a Blaupunkt Professional Line series as their standard entertainment system, which includes 19-inch LCD, 5-screens, with a DVD system and radio in their standard package.
Setra offers a Blaupunkt Professional Line series as their standard entertainment system, which includes 19-inch LCD, 5-screens, with a DVD system and radio in their standard package.

From Wi-Fi service to DVD systems to 110-volt outlets for charging any type of mobile communication device imaginable, passengers are used to having these amenities in their homes, and are increasingly requesting extra technology of coach operators.

To gain a deeper understanding of the onboard entertainment options, LCT spoke with four coachbuilders. Here are their offerings:

Setra, Daimler Buses North America, Greensboro, N.C.

Tom Chezem, vice president of motorcoach sales, for Setra/Daimler Buses North America, says that the manufacturer has gone with a Blaupunkt Professional Line series as its standard entertainment system. The coachmaker also offer 19-inch LCD, 5-screens with a DVD system and radio in its standard package.

For customers looking for extras, Setra can increase the number of monitors if a coach operator wants some of them to face backwards. They also can add eight-channel systems, satellite TV, XM radio, and Wi-Fi.
Operators such as Omaha, Neb.-based Arrow Stage Lines have added some of these features and capabilities. A Yankee Line, in Boston, recently invested in satellite TV and Wi-Fi.

“A lot of people are adding multi-receivers, XM, people with iPods, MP3 players,” Chezem says. “More people are drawn to the computer and the Web, and lots of times people have their cell phones, they’re already connected. Wi-Fi is great if you’ve got a computer, but a lot of people are walking around with cell phones and don’t need the Wi-Fi connections. And they’re really not watching movies, because it’s not individualized to their taste,” he adds.

Chezem says that the Asian market is leading onboard entertainment trends. “They tend to be on the cutting edge of electronics from an entertainment perspective. There is a merging of the two when you look at the pipeline that’s available. Most of it goes through Wi-Fi: How can you download movies to a coach that’s running along the road? I think we’re still a little bit farther away from that. I haven’t seen the changes in the entertainment side as much as I’ve see it on the [fleet] tracking side. [For] entertainment, what you tend to see is larger monitors, a little more bling.”

Setra Options
• Wi-Fi
• Extra monitors
• 8-channel systems
• Satellite TV
• XM radio

Prevost, Sainte-Claire, Quebec

The Prevost H-Series offers Prevost’s newest entertainment system, the DELTATM Configuration.
The Prevost Premium Sound System with AM/FM/CD receiver has satellite radio capability, XM, Sirius, and is iPod ready. The Prevost Sound System with DELTATM configuration comes with dual subwoofers and one speaker above each passenger area broadcasting one channel and surrounding speakers broadcasting the other channel to provide a more homogeneous sound throughout the coach.

Prevost Extras
• 17-inch, flip down flat screen monitors, which only descends when in use
• Wi-Fi
• Wireless microphones
• 110 electrical plugs
• Satellite TV

Motor Coach Industries (MCI), Schaumburg, Ill.

MCI offers Blaupunkt as its standard entertainment system provider for the independent market. Other basic features on most MCI coaches include CD and DVD players.

Brent Danielson, business development manager, says, “There are a couple of different sizes of flat screens available: we’re moving toward 15-inch wide screen format, making wide screen a standard format, and a 10.4-inch wide screen. We have a Wi-Fi system on board, seat back audio, seat back video, satellite TV, MP3 iPod inputs, pretty much everything you might have in a home setting. With the exception of BluRay players, we haven’t seen that come into the coach market yet.”

Danielson adds that cordless microphones are also popular, and the manufacturer is moving toward 110-volt outlets. “We went from six outlets per coach to 10 outlets, [and] now we’re all the way up to an outlet per row. Same kind of thing you see in the airplanes. We don’t have the in-seat video on demand, video’s pretty expensive, an expensive undertaking for a coach at this point. We have no takers, but it’s the same technology.”

When looking to the future, Danielson said that video on demand entertainment is possible, but the application is still fairly limited by a hefty price tag. “Not everybody is exclusively serving that kind of clientele that wants to pay for it,” he adds.

An enhanced audiophile package of 15 tweeters and dual subwoofers comes standard on the E4500 and is an option on the J4500. Owners can opt for a scenic view camera as well. Other techno-savvy options include Wi-Fi and 110-volt outlets for passengers who want to use their own electronic devices on board.

MCI Blaupunkt Pro-line Options on Luxury Coaches
• Flat-screen monitors
• Optional seatback audio
• iPod connectivity
• Cordless microphone
• Satellite radio and TV

ABC Companies, Faribault, Minnesota

Louis Hotard, director of technical service, says that over the past six months ABC has been selling lots of 110-volt power outlets. “Customers have really been asking for charging stations for iPods, computers, cell phones,” he adds.

Also up in popularity somewhat are computer interface connections, enabling sports teams to show films and Powerpoint presentations to their select groups.

Wi-Fi, as with other manufacturers, also has been pretty popular among ABC’s customers. Big screen monitors are another hot seller. “The six 20-inch flat screen monitors, we sell a good bit of those. Most buses have standard 10- and 15 inch monitors if you’re lucky. The big 20-inch screens, we have six of those in a coach. That’s kind of the wow factor.”

Related Topics: onboard video, Wi-Fi access

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