Middle East air passengers can soon look forward to using their personal cell phones in flight. Mobile phone technology specialist OnAir of Geneva, Switzerland, will begin tests on the commercial use of mobile phones aboard TAP Portugal Airbus A321s later this year. According to OnAir CEO George Cooper, Gulf state airlines will likely be among the first to offer the service.
OnAir plans to start the trial when onboard equipment developed by Airbus, Siemens and other partners receive full certification and civil aviation authorities institute a regulatory framework for safe use of personal cell phones on commercial aircraft.
During the trial, passengers on the TAP A321s get the chance to use their GSM mobile phones and other GPRS-enabled devices–such as the BlackBerry or other compatible smart phones–to make and receive voice calls or send and receive SMS messages and e-mails.
“This is not a trial of the technology, but of how it’s used and what customers want, and in order to set a benchmark for service,” said Cooper. When the service becomes standard, he added, “Pricing will likely be in line with typical international roaming rates.”