Aerostructure and wiring specialist Latécoère is developing a Li-Fi system, based on light signal transmission via optical fiber and light-modulation infrared LEDs, as a way to increase the bandwidth of IFE systems.

With Li-Fi, multimedia content is distributed more quickly than with Wi-Fi, Latécoère chief technical officer-innovations in photonics Alexandre Bacou said.

The current prototype offers 10 megabit per sec. per passenger and Latécoère plans to increase speed tenfold by June. The throughput is the same for download and upload—both directions can be used simultaneously, Bacou said.

LiFi is promised to enable 4K video-on-demand for an entire cabin. The cost of ownership would be compatible with economy class, Bacou said.

A Li-Fi beam is very directional. Each Li-Fi ceiling lamp would thus transmit data for one passenger only, opening possibilities for personalization, according to Bacou.

The concept is named Private Capsule. One router can cover 24 lamps. Each passenger could receive the transmitted content on the seatback terminal or his or her personal device.

Latécoère began working on Li-Fi one-and-a-half years ago, Bacou said. One year ago, the company partnered with maintenance and retrofit specialist Air France Industries (AFI), the Laplace electric engineering laboratory in Toulouse, and Oledcomm—a startup company in Li-Fi systems.

The first demonstration flight of the Private Capsule system is planned for September aboard an Air France aircraft, thanks to the partnership with AFI.

Bacou estimated a product could be on the market in 2021.

Thierry Dubois, thierry.dubois@aviationweek.com