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.
Aircraft passengers should be able to use their own cellphones in flight safely and conveniently before the end of this year through a new service developed jointly by satellite operator Inmarsat, aircraft communication systems specialist Arinc and mobile telephone service provider Telenor.
Sweden’s Ericsson yesterday launched an airborne GSM base station intended to enable passengers to use their cellphones on board aircraft. Commercial availability is scheduled for the end of this year and the vendor is in “very detailed discussions” with some existing operators, said Christian Jansson, senior specialist for high-capacity networks.
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.
Widespread testing has proven that new technology allows for in-flight use of cell phones without disrupting terrestrial networks. Now developers face the challenge of winning airworthiness approval for the systems and the licenses to use the relevant frequencies.
As anyone who has flown aboard a private jet can attest, whiling away the time en route with a good book, sampling the catering or just engaging in some quiet conversation with cabin mates can make for an entirely enjoyable experience aloft.
AeroMobile, a joint venture of Arinc and Telenor now planning the introduction of cellphone services for the cabin, last month announced that it is taking a “global role” in convincing communications regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Europe to allow the use of personal mobile phones after takeoff.
Cingular, the largest wireless service provider in the U.S., has asked the FAA to maintain its ban on cellphone use aboard aircraft in flight. In a June 8 letter to the agency, the Atlanta-based company said it is concerned about the potential disturbance to passengers from “inconsiderate” phone users.
Even as a half-dozen companies are rushing to get FAA approval for systems that will allow the in-flight use of personal cellphones on business aircraft, other government entities have questioned cellphone use on airliners, citing security concerns. In December last year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed allowing the use of cellphones on airliners and offered the usual comment period.
There is little evidence to support the idea that a single cellphone left on in a piece