More than 11,000 airline passengers have used their own mobile phones in-flight since the Qantas evaluation of AeroMobile commenced in April 2007.
The service has already been in operation for over 1,000 flying hours on domestic flights in Australia. This has been part of an on-going in-flight evaluation of text messaging and mobile data (GPRS) services by Qantas.
AeroMobile allows passengers to safely use their own mobile phones and PDAs in-flight. For the Qantas evaluation passengers are able to use their own mobile device for texting and mobile email services such as BlackBerrys. The charges for these services are conveniently billed to passengers’ existing mobile phone account, similar to any other mobile ‘roaming’ traffic.
Passenger usage levels in-flight have been significant on the 254 seat Qantas Boeing 767 aircraft. Hundreds of text messages are being sent and received on the busiest flights in addition to the email and internet data use by Blackberry and other PDA users. Flights vary in length from just over one hour to over 5 hours, giving an excellent indication of passenger requirements on short haul and longer flights.
Dave Poltorak, President of AeroMobile, said: “Over 11,000 Qantas passengers have now shown their interest in using their own mobile phones and BlackBerrys to stay in contact when in-flight. Passenger feedback has been overwhelmingly positive to the reality of being able to safely use their mobile phones when flying, validating AeroMobile’s technology and business model.”
The AeroMobile system was provided to Qantas in partnership with Panasonic Avionics Corporation and Telstra. Aircraft certification on the Qantas 767 aircraft was achieved in early April 2007 following conclusion of the necessary approvals by Australian authorities. AeroMobile entered service later that month.
Feedback from users clearly shows that there is strong interest in in-flight mobile communications among passengers, particularly among business travellers and frequent flyers but also by leisure travellers. Passengers would appear to want the choice of being able to stay in touch when they fly.
Mr Poltorak added: “The evaluation with Qantas has demonstrated the capabilities of Aero Mobile and allowed us to better understand passengers’ needs. Feedback received from Qantas’ passengers clearly shows their interest in mobile communications services of all types. It is clear that passengers welcome this development. Based on the response we will be continuing to operate the evaluation with Qantas.”
“This evaluation has given us all invaluable experience for implementing and operating these services on both long haul and short haul airline operations. We are particularly pleased with usage levels during the evaluation given that promotion of the service was limited for operational reasons.” he concluded.
AeroMobile Limited is a UK-based company owned by ARINC Inc and Telenor ASA. It has been pursuing the objective of allowing the safe use of passengers own mobile phones and PDAs since 2003 in response to market demands. AeroMobile has already received commitment from Emirates airline of Dubai, UAE for fleet-wide installation of the AeroMobile systems on all its aircraft.
The AeroMobile pico cell’ system for the Qantas evaluation was supplied by Panasonic Avionics Corporation, with whom AeroMobile has a reseller relationship. The system ensures that all mobile phones on the aircraft operate at minimum power thereby removing the risk of interference to aircraft systems.
AeroMobile has also exploited its unique capability to work with existing Inmarsat Classic and Swift64 satellite communications systems to connect passengers to the ground.
The AeroMobile system was installed, fully tested and approved in accordance with Australian aviation regulations. A key part of the testing and approval related to safe operation of phones on board aircraft in accordance with revised crew instructions.
To gain all necessary authorisations for the Qantas project Panasonic, Telstra and AeroMobile worked closely withthe Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and other agencies to ensure the system operates in accordance with Australian aviation safety, regulatory and legal requirements.