In-flight Communications Development from SITA.

SITA and Comfone , the Swiss based supplier of roaming services to mobile network operators, have taken a step forward in the development of in-flight communications with the signing of a contract that is designed to make paying for on-board phone calls easier for airline passengers.
Both companies are exhibiting and participating in the 3GSM World Congress this week.

SITA representatives said they are now working with GSM operators and aims to launch the service later this year. Passengers will then be able to swipe SITA?fs AIRCOM Mobile Charging Card through any on-board handset to pay for all in-flight calls through their GSM subscriber account. The main benefits are that passengers avoid having to making a separate payment by credit card and that this service will be available on over 1,200 commercial aircraft in use by 60 different airlines that make use of SITA?fs passenger communication services.

“Our partnership with Comfone represents an important development for passengers, who will continue to see improvements in the field of in-flight voice and data communications,” said Veronique Blanc, SITA`s director of passenger and cabin communications. “SITA?fs aim is to provide airline passengers with the same mobile phone connectivity in the air that they are used to getting on the ground. Through working with Comfone a customized SITA solution will be put in place to meet the needs of our customers as well as satisfying the requirements of the GSM industry.”

Market research conducted by SITA revealed that 94% of business travellers had mobile phones and that 57% wanted to be able to bill their own mobile phone accounts when making calls onboard aircraft. The response from leisure travellers showed similar trends and so it is expected that the new service should appeal to many travellers world-wide.

SITA conducted the Business Requirements for Aeronautical High speed Mobile Satellite Services (BRAHMSS) study for the European Space agency in 2001 and the passenger survey included 500 travellers at London Heathrow Airport.


“Airline travel is one of the last areas where full mobile communications services are still not available, so we are extremely pleased to be working with SITA to provide a simple, effective solution,” said Walter Heutschi , President of Comfone. ” By providing SITA with data and financial clearing-house facilities we can ensure that all call records (TAP files) generated as a result of onboard flight communications are sent to the relevant mobile operators. We will also be providing SITA with advice and expertise as they start to develop relationships with mobile operators and increase their use of roaming services.”

Last week, SITA was among several organizations in the travel, mobile telephone, smart card and payment systems industries to announce a joint program to provide a comprehensive, fast, convenient and reliable solution for the business traveler for arranging both domestic and international travels on the Internet.

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