The days of giant movie screens and VCRs providing onboard entertainment for bus and motorcoach customers are fading away.
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 95 percent of Americans own a cellphone and 77 percent own a smartphone.
People today are connecting to their devices for work and entertainment while “on the go,” and the bus and motorcoach industry is finding ways to keep up with the demand.
The current trend of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) is making its way through the American workplace, school classrooms and the fleets of bus and motorcoach companies.
Onboard Wi-Fi was first available to some passengers 10 years ago, followed by power outlets for personal electronic devices, and now USB charging ports are in high demand.
Many motorcoach operators say Wi-Fi connections on vehicles have improved greatly over the years, but there are still issues with meeting consumer demands. Fifty or more users on one account can slow down Internet speed, and data-usage costs are increasing as more passengers stream movies, answer emails or browse social media.
Some companies pass Internet costs along to customers by charging a daily Wi-Fi fee, while others pay data overage bills as high as $2,000 a month to avoid an interruption in service to passengers. Others block or restrict certain sites to avoid a slow down or interruption of service.
Within the past few years, a handful of companies have started providing high-powered Wi-Fi routers, streamable licensed movie libraries and unlimited data packages.
Specialized routers are built to handle the Internet traffic of 70 users and up to 148 different electronic devices at one time. Movies are streamed directly from the router so there is no buffering or interruption of service. Plus, the unlimited data package bandwidth is easily distributed to all passengers.
Although many passengers are bringing their own electronic devices on board for entertainment, monitors and DVD players are still standard features on buses manufactured today. High school, college and professional sports teams often request screens, DVD players and satellite TV.
And many new buses are equipped with HDMI interface systems allowing laptops to be hooked up to onboard monitors.
“You will always need at least one monitor on board to play the video safety message,” said Brent Danielson, director of product planning and sales engineering at coachbuilder Motor Coach Industries.