Air France in Cell Phone Trial

By Tish Drake | December 26, 2007
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Air France launched an in-flight cellular phone service trial for international flights. The carrier began a six-month trail with the Mobile OnAir system for its Airbus A318 aircraft operating European routes. OnAir is owned by Airbus and SITA. In the first half of the trial, passengers will be able to send text messages and check e-mail. During the second half of the trial, passengers will be able to make and receive phone calls. At the end of the six-month trial, Air France said it will examine the feedback and comments made by customers to determine whether to launch this service on all its flights. The Mobile OnAir system does not interfere with the radio-navigation instruments on the aircraft and may be only be used at cruising altitude, the companies said. The system is activated at 10,000 feet. Using the system, mobile phones connect to a miniature cellular network installed inside this aircraft. A modem transmits data and calls to a satellite that routes them to a ground station. Data and calls are then routed to the passenger’s usual telephone network. OnAir has roaming agreements with mobile network operators, including the three major operators in France. Other European airlines, including Irish carrier Ryanair, are planning to launch similar services across their fleets in 2008. Australian airline Qantas is also running a similar trial using the system developed by AeroMobile, a joint venture between ARINC and Telenor.

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