As most of its customers know by now, AirCell no longer actively markets airborne cellular systems, mainly because new digital cellular technology is rendering much of its existing analog-based ground network obsolete–but that doesn’t mean the AirCell name is a misnomer.
To remain a viable communications provider, AirCell has formed a partnership with satellite communications provider Iridium and today sells a line of Iridium satphones for business airplanes. Hardware and per-minute charges are about the same as for the company’s original airborne cellular service, and AirCell has been offering deals to customers who are seeking to move from its cellular systems to Iridium.
Customers flying with the old AirCell phones can still use them to make calls, but the coverage area is being limited to fewer areas as analog cell stations are upgraded to new digital standards. The good news for AirCell customers is that the company has plans to offer airborne cellular services that are based on digital cellular technology, which the company said will let passengers use their personal cellphones to place calls in flight and even access new high-speed-cellular data services when they are available.
Assuming technological and regulatory hurdles are overcome, AirCell plans to roll out the new digital cell services in 2006, according to a spokesman. In the meantime, look for AirCell to continue marketing its Iridium-based products.