Boeing Scraps In-Flight Wireless Plans

Following news Monday that its new 787 "Dreamliner," the fastest-selling new plane in the company's history, would be delayed three months, Boeing said it was scrapping plans to deliver in-flight entertainment over a high-speed wireless network.

Boeing had planned to utilize wireless connectivity to stream movies and other programming to each site, thereby reducing the amount of wiring needing to be run during the aircraft's assembly. Airbus, Boeing's European rival, encountered numerous wiring issues that delayed its A380 super-jumbo jet by more than two years.

However, the company's effort to pre-emtpively avoid such headaches ran into troubles of its own: Boeing says that the bandwidth required to stream near-DVD quality movies would require a large number of antennas and access points. In addition, the company had trouble obtaining regulatory approval for the wireless signals in some countries.

According to Boeing, each row of seats would need its own one-pound antenna, and 23 wireless access points weighing two pounds each would need to be placed in the ceiling panels of the 787 aircraft. The total weight addition would come to 200 pounds, more than the 50 pounds needed for standard wiring.

While Boeing remains optimistic about the $160 million 787, which is on track to arrive in May 2008, the wireless issue could lead to further concern about the project. According to published reports, Boeing has spent an additional $635 million in research and development to address problems that have cropped up during production.

So far, Boeing has signed preproduction orders for 448 planes.

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