Arinc and Telenor begin testing wireless phone concept

October 8, 2007, 9:06 AM

Arinc and Norway telecommunications company Telenor have successfully completed ground testing of technology that lets passengers continue talking on their personal wireless phones after takeoff. The companies demonstrated the satellite-based concept at last month’s World Airline Entertainment Association conference, held September 20 to 24 in Seattle, and are holding talks with a number of airlines.

The Arinc/Telenor system operates over an Inmarsat satcom link by making GSM-type mobile phones “think” they are communicating with an ordinary ground tower. For the recent tests, engineers installed a small receiver in an overhead baggage compartment. Once mobile phones locked onto the receiver, they immediately powered down to their lowest possible settings, preventing the phones from interfering with avionics or callers outside the airplane.

Officials for Arinc and Telenor said they are ready to offer the airlines a test program that includes installation of the needed hardware and a method
for billing passengers’ regular mobile phone accounts. The cost of a call is expected to be similar to existing international roaming rates on the ground, typically about $1.50 per minute. After airline trials, the companies said they plan to roll out a version of the system for the business aviation market.

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