TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Cell Phone Use Coming for Airbus Fliers

Cell Phone Use Coming for Airbus Fliers

Marcus Didius Falco (
Wed, 16 Feb 2005 18:52:01 -0500

GSM phones in the US are provided by T-Mobile and also on the
all-digital services from Cingular/AT&T. Elsewhere in the world they
are available in almost all countries except a few in South America,
and Japan. I think some Philippines carriers use GSM.

Check for full information.

And so much for all the so-called "safety" arguments about using cell
phones on aircraft.

Cell phone use coming for Airbus fliers GENEVA (AP) Passengers will
soon be able to use their own cell phones on commercial airliners,
under a deal signed Tuesday by European aeronautics giant Airbus and a
Geneva-based technology firm.

OnAir's voice and data systems will be a standard option on all new
Airbus superjumbo A380 planes from 2006, giving passengers on short-
and long-haul flights the chance make calls using their own phones,
Chief Executive George Cooper said.

The technology could also be fitted to Boeing jets, and will be used
to give passengers Internet access using their own laptops, he said.

"It is going to rapidly become something that people are going to be
very upset if they don't have," Cooper told The Associated Press in an
interview. "It's not many years ago when most of us had phones that
didn't work everywhere, now we expect them to work anywhere."

Users of mobile phones with roaming capability will be able to make
and receive calls using a base station within the airplane, which will
use GSM technology, the main European system.

Most users will not be able to connect to U.S. or Asian networks, but
Cooper said OnAir had "focused on the mobile phone side on GSM,
because that is the dominant standard and will be for years."

The company is banking on a large increase in GSM-compatible phones
being sold in North America and Asia, he said. But "the main market
for voice is short-haul," as business travelers within a connected
Europe will increasingly see such a service as a necessity.

"Short-haul journeys tend to be part of a business day, they tend to
be in daylight and the person you are calling is quite likely to be in
the same time zone as you," Cooper said.

"We think it's likely that the day will come when, if you don't have
this, you may actually not get some of those passengers."

OnAir estimates the global market for airliner Internet access at
about $400 million annually. For mobile telephone service, revenues
could be four times as high.

That would make the combined market worth some $2 billion, catering to
more than 700 million people.

The company a joint venture of Airbus and Netherlands-based IT company
SITA Information Networking Computing is aiming to sell its services
to airlines, which could then use the technology in other plane

European and Asian companies, as well as some American airlines, have
already shown strong interest in fitting their planes with OnAir's
technology, Cooper said, declining to name firms that have placed

OnAir hopes that the surcharge for mobile phone use will be
competitive, with international call rates at about $2 to $2.50 per
minute. A text message should cost about 50 cents to send or receive.

Prices for Internet access will be higher, at about $15 per flight for
basic services such as e-mail and $30 for a more comprehensive
service, Cooper said.

Planes can be fitted with either wired or wireless connections, but so far
airlines have been more keen to use wireless because it weighs less and is
cheaper, Cooper said. To log on to the Internet, a user would then need a
wireless-capable laptop.

"It is as if we are creating a new country in the sky," Cooper said,
stressing that airlines will find ways to regulate the use of cell
phones and laptops "so that it doesn't annoy everybody."

Crews will be able to switch the system off when the aircraft enters
its local night and the blinds go down. Mobile service could be
disconnected, while still allowing text services, he said.

Airlines may introduce new seating plans, to allow nonusers to avoid
the noise and potential annoyance from mobile phone conversations,
Cooper suggested.

Seattle-based Connexion, a rival provider backed by Boeing, offers a
similar Internet service on all Lufthansa flights, allowing passengers
to log on using their own laptops at comparable rates of $9.95 for 30
minutes to $29.95 flights longer than six hours.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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