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Air France to Trial In-flight Mobile Data Services

  • Posted: Saturday, December 22, 2007
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  • Author: pradhana
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  • Filed under: Miscellaneous

Air France-KLM, Europe's largest airline, announced it will trial in-flight use of mobile phones, enabling passengers to send and receive text messages, e-mail and photos. The second stage of the six-month trial will allow travelers to make and receive voice calls.

Air France launched the trial this week aboard short-haul routes across Europe, and said it would examine feedback and comments from passengers to determine whether to introduce mobile services on all flights.

Related trials are planned by both BMI British Midland and TAP Air Portugal, and Irish discount carrier Ryanair announced it will introduce the service across its entire 160-aircraft fleet in 2008.

The Air France trial will employ services developed by OnAir, an onboard mobile and Internet communications system jointly launched by aircraft manufacturer Airbus and travel communications provider SITA. After a passenger's mobile handset connects to a miniature cellular network installed inside the aircraft, data and calls are transmitted to a nearby satellite, routed to a ground station and then passed along to the traveler's network provider.

Air France and most of the other airlines in Europe planning early trials are using the system developed by OnAir, a joint venture between Sita and Airbus. According to OnAir, the system avoids interference with aircraft avionics and ground communications networks. It may only be used at cruising altitude above 10,000ft (3,000m) once the new illuminated sign "Switch off your phone" is turned off.

Costs for using the service are invoiced by the customers' home telephone operator and are comparable to those used for normal international mobile phone calls.

The Air France trial is the first use of a mobile telephony system on international flights, although Qantas has been trialling for several months in the Australian domestic market a rival system developed by AeroMobile, a joint venture between Arinc and Telenor. [FierceMobileContent]

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