OnAir is launching GSM and GPRS mobile services on selected European flights, allowing passengers to make and receive phone calls and exchange text messages and emails using their own mobile phones and personal electronic devices (PEDs) like BlackBerrys and smartphones. Air France, bmi and TAP Portugal have all already signed up to commercial trials of the OnAir service.
The agreement between OnAir and Monaco Telecom will see Monaco Telecom supply and operate key ground components of the OnAir network, as well as providing OnAir with assistance in establishing roaming agreements with leading mobile operators and GSM service providers in Europe and other key target markets.
“With arrangements for the onboard system and satellite connectivity already in place, this announcement effectively cements the third and final piece of the puzzle,” said OnAir CEO George Cooper. OnAir chose Monaco Telecom, he said, because of its leading-edge technology, extensive international experience and expertise. “OnAir is delighted to be partnering with a company that has built an unrivalled international reputation as the leader in developing bespoke GSM networks.”
Under the terms of the agreement, OnAir GSM and GPRS calls made anywhere in the world will transit through Monaco Telecom’s dedicated OnAir ground network.
“Monaco Telecom welcomes the chance to be part of this ground-breaking technological leap, as OnAir brings full mobile phone and PED use to an entirely new domain—air travel,” said Monaco Telecom’s CEO, Denis Martin. “Our partnership with OnAir represents an exciting opportunity for the Monaco Telecom team to demonstrate its skill in network design and operation, as well as helping us further develop our international profile.”
Bidding for the contract to supply the OnAir ground network began in early 2005, involving more than ten suppliers ranging from large mobile operators to telecom equipment manufacturers. Cooper said the winning criteria were flexibility, responsiveness, technical excellence and a proven track record building networks for challenging environments. Monaco Telecom has already set up robust mobile networks not only in Monaco but also in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
In addition to technical services, Monaco Telecom’s roaming team will help OnAir to quickly build the comprehensive network of roaming agreements needed for the launch of commercial operations early next year. When the OnAir network goes live, Monaco Telecom will handle related financial and data clearing activities.
The contract between OnAir and Monaco Telecom builds on an existing partnership which has seen the Monaco-based operator provide OnAir with network services since Q3 2005 to support its ongoing development programme.
“Our two companies have already established a very effective working relationship,” said Denis Martin. “This new agreement further extends our positive collaboration, which is committed to bringing users seamless, affordable access to the communication services they take for granted on the ground.”