Aircell Takes the Smartphone Airborne

 - October 4, 2013, 2:55 AM
Gogo Talk & Text is available for Apple products this month.

Aircraft cabin connectivity just keeps getting better and better, and now Aircell has expanded its Gogo Biz Internet connection to include voice capability.

Because Gogo Biz operates on Aircell’s air-to-ground technology, which taps into the ground cellphone network, the company claims “voice calls are among the clearest in aviation, on par with mobile phone calls on the ground.”

As a “two-in-one” service, Gogo Biz offers Internet and voice capabilities from a single system, which can eliminate the need for separate systems, according to the company, “dramatically reducing the equipment requirements and installation costs.” Gogo Biz with voice starts at $134.95 a month, good for 60 voice minutes.

To access the new voice service, Aircell’s new Gogo Text & Talk service works with existing smartphones. Passengers and flight crew can also access the voice service using Aircell’s new cabin handsets. Voice calls are conducted in the aircraft over Wi-Fi (not using the phone’s cellular system) and using the passenger’s own mobile number (not an auto-attendant, two-step dialing or call-forwarding protocol.)

Because service is 100-percent software-based, voice can be added to any standard Gogo Biz equipment package without more hardware, weight or installation downtime. According to Aircell, “This makes Gogo Text & Talk practical for aircraft as small as light jets and turboprops [while] at the same time hundreds of thousands of dollars less expensive than traditional, picocell-based solutions that offer similar capabilities.”

Gogo Text & Talk requires the purchase of a software key for the aircraft’s onboard equipment and installation of a free app on the passenger’s smartphone. Service for the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 began October 1; support for select Android devices will begin November 1.