Malaysia Airlines has received and installed an in-flight mobile phone system designed by AeroMobile on one of its Boeing 777s. Passengers will be able to safely use their cell phones and PDAs during the cruise portion of the flight without interfering with the aircraft’s navigational controls and communication.
The system has been tested extensively over the past few weeks. Cabin crews will be given the green light to “advise” especially chatty passengers to be mindful of others during long haul or overnight flights. The service will be available on regional and international flights to Australia, Africa and the Middle East.
Passengers who choose to use the service will be billed by their own cell phone providers. Roaming, international and out-of-network charges will be applied. Currently, AeroMobile is working with Malaysian cell phone service providers to ensure that users won’t hit any snags if the try to make in-flight calls while in international airspace.
[Via My Sinchew]
An article posted by The Register this morning reports that Irish low cost carrier Ryanair is just a few weeks away from launching in-flight mobile phone service.
The service will be provided by OnAir, a joint venture between SITA and Airbus, which was setup to bring Internet, phone and text messaging service to the skies.
Mobile phone calls will cost £2 per minute, which at the current exchange rate translates to just under $4. At launch, the service will only be available to passengers with a mobile phone on the UK’s O2 and Three networks. The technology allows 6 simultaneous calls from each plane and the required equipment will first be introduced on 14 Dublin based Ryanair planes.
In a time where airlines are scrambling to find ways to generate more revenue, I doubt Ryanair will be the last airline to try and tap into the lucrative mobile phone market. It is however ironic that the low cost carriers are among the first to introduce these new services.
Mobile phone service on flights won’t be coming to the States any time soon, as the FCC has not lifted the ban on in-flight phone service. The upside to this, is that you won’t have to deal with a seatmate blabbering on his phone for the entire flight.
When airlines (slowly) started introducing in-flight Internet access to their flights, they were very quick to point out that “VOIP calls” would not be possible. VOIP stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol”, and basically means making phone calls over the Internet. All popular VOIP applications like Skype and Vonage have been blocked.
The airlines, and the provider behind the service obviously do not want a plane full of people chatting on the phone, yelling loudly about how they just made a fortune on the stock market. The other reason is of course because each flight only has a limited amount of data to share between all the passengers. If half the plane suddenly starts calling their aunts and uncles, regular web browsing would become impossible when all the bandwidth is sucked up by phone chatter.
Of course, when you tell people they can’t do something, their natural response is to see how they can prove you wrong. It took a week, but the block on VOIP calls has been successfully bypassed. By using a web service called Phweet, passengers have been able to make phone calls to their friends. The system only works with people who have a Twitter account, but it’s better than nothing. Of course, now this workaround has been published, it will only be a matter of time before the fun comes to an end, and the creative minds will have to find another working solution.