Mobile Calling On Planes?


Imagine using your Blackberry from 30,000ft in the air. Well the idea is closer than you think, both Boeing and Airbus promised to roll out systems next year. Boeing has just completed a week of demonstrations over international waters near Europe of a new system that allows owners of both CDMA and GSM phones to call home.

The trial used an on-board mobile phone network linked to Boeing’s broadband satellite internet system – called Connexion by Boeing – to send through the calls. Boeing’s system already allows customers whose laptops can access wireless networks to connect on more than 120 flights a day, and Connexion by Boeing vice-president of marketing and sales David Friedman said mobile phones were a natural next step.

“We plan to make it available to our airline customers, should they want it, once discussions between regulatory authorities and airline customers have been concluded and the industry has come to an agreement on how to implement it in practice.”

Airbus has also been showcasing a wireless cabin network that will allow mobile access in all classes via laptops, personal digital assistants and mobile phones. The European manufacturer expects the service to be available in its popular A320 aircraft by the second half of next year.

Two carriers – Britain’s BMI and Portugal’s TAP – have signed up for the Airbus system and hope to be among the first to introduce mobile service. No pricing has been released but industry sources suggest calls could cost between US75c and $US1.50 ($1-$2) a minute, significantly less than existing credit card-operated airline phones.

But a survey of almost 700,000 people from 76 countries by Skytrax found 89 per cent of them opposed the idea.