‘Chatter-free’ in-flight phone to debut

 - September 12, 2006, 1:03 PM

A device that its Australian inventor says will let in-flight cellphone users access a variety of data functions without interfering with aircraft avionics and terrestrial cellular networks will be formally unveiled at this month’s World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) Conference, held from September 12 to 15 in Miami.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of the unit, called SafeCell, however, is the elimination of voice calls that are audible throughout the cabin, which some see as probably the greatest barrier to airborne cellphone use. The unit will be attached to cellphones with Bluetooth data connection capability or cable connection. Ron Chapman, president of ASiQ, noted that the ASiQ unit, unlike other in-flight cellphone programs, will muzzle the cellphone transmitting function, preventing users from making voice calls but allowing them to use the phone for SMS text messaging, e-mails and other data functions, such as games.

SafeCell has a VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) module that provides the transmission of text and voice data outside the cellphone roaming network.

He says the device can function with all cellphone networks, adding that operators will benefit by offering passengers access to a low-cost data service without the need for expensive and complex pico cell-based equipment. The unit, which Chapman describes only as “inexpensive,” will use existing certified aviation communication networks and cut data delivery cost by eliminating reliance on the cellular roaming network.