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.
The three new communications media that have become indispensable in recent years– cellular telephony, electronic mail and the worldwide Web–are now becoming a realistic option for the airlines.
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.
EMS Technologies will supply broadband satcom system hardware for OnAir’s in-flight cellphone and Internet service through a collaboration with Thales.
The deal could be worth up to $30 million to EMS Satcom over the next five years. The company produces Inmarsat communications terminals, internal cards and antennas.
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.
The six-ton I-4 communications satellite Inmarsat launched in late March has taken over satcom transmission routing responsibility from the previous I-3 satellite covering the Indian Ocean Region, according to Inmarsat officials. While this news might not have much immediate impact on the average satcom user, there will be a notable change once Inmarsat switches on the I-4 satellite’s SwiftBroadband high-speed-data services late next year.
The successful launch of the second Inmarsat-4 communications satellite late last year brings the introduction of SwiftBroadband airborne high-speed-data capability one step closer to reality.
For a long time–too long some say–the industry has been struggling to give passengers on corporate aircraft the same business and entertainment tools at 41,000 feet that they enjoy at home or in their offices. And the truth is it’s going to take a little longer.
As regulatory agencies in Europe and North America grapple with whether to permit the use of personal mobile phones in flight, the companies that intend to sell and market the services not surprisingly are trying to convince the world that the concept is perfectly safe, will not foster air rage as some have claimed and that the concerns in general have been overblown.