Air France has just announced that they will launch a six-month trial of its first in-flight mobile phone service using GSM network. According to the spokesperson, the service will be rolled out on its Airbus A318 aircraft first and those passengers that are on the flight may not be notified before the departure that they are on the ‘trial’ flight. The only way to tell the difference is by looking at the “No Mobile” sign besides “No Smoking” or “Fasten your seat belt” sign.
The backhaul of this technology is the satellite system that able to communicate to the ground station while linking it to the in-flight pico base station. There will be a pico basestation in the flight that is able to direct all these communication channels to the satellite without interfering the in-flight navigation system. The communication system, setup by OnAir (a Geneve-based company) is aiming to give Air France a complete new communication solution that enables seamless connectivity even while they are on the air. Good thing is, the calling rate is said to be comparable with existing international roaming charges and will be more affordable to public.
AirFrance will have to examine the test results before implementing this solution to other fleets. Anyway, we should expect to see more similar system being rolled out to other Airlines in short future.