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Carry-on device brings in-flight entertainment to smaller airlines

Film and music delivered to passengers' phones by Teac's portable server

Teac's server requires no installation work and can be carried on and off the plane by the flight crew.

TOKYO -- Japanese audio equipment maker Teac has developed a portable server that airlines can use to provide in-flight entertainment on passengers' smartphones.

The gadget is priced between 1.5 million and 2 million yen ($14,000 and $18,700), meaning audio and video content can be delivered at a fraction of the cost of installing an in-flight entertainment system.

The device, dubbed the PS-V50, can be carried in one hand and connects to up to about 50 smartphones, tablet computers and laptops via a Wi-Fi network.

No installation work is necessary, and there is no need to connect the server to anything onboard. It can be set up "without even touching the aircraft," said Senior Executive Officer Keisuke Yoshida.

"[Smaller] airlines can now also offer the latest video and music content," he added.

Pilots and flight crew can simply carry the device on along with their belongings. Additionally, airlines do not need to gain approval from the transport ministry's civil aviation bureau to use the system.

The audio and video data stored on the server is managed by Teac, and updated with the latest news programs via the internet while the plane is on the tarmac. Passengers can then access the content on their personal devices during their flight, as well as check information such as the distance and time to destination.

Teac has been developing in-flight entertainment systems for 25 years. 

Ibex Airlines, a small Japanese carrier will start using the system on its fleet of 10 aircraft in October.   © Kyodo

This month, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways began offering free in-flight Wi-Fi. But the time and cost of providing in-flight internet services have made it difficult for smaller rivals to keep up. On a midsize aircraft, for example, installing a system to provide internet access costs about $300,000, while seatback screens would cost around $1 million.

Ibex Airlines, a domestic carrier that operates out of Sendai, Northeast Japan, and Osaka, will begin using the system on all 10 of its small jets in October.

Having received inquiries from budget airlines run by Japan's major carriers as well as other Asian players, Teac hopes to sell 100 units in the first business year and 250 units in fiscal 2019.

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