The French national carrier now offers in-flight GSM coverage. The first plane with the new service is an Airbus A318 in the Air France fleet. This is the only aircraft, participating in the six month GSM coverage trial, which stared on December 17, with a flight from Paris to Warsaw. The onboard cell “tower”, which connects to the ground cells by satellite signal, allows the use of GSM based phones but limits the users to sending text messages and e-mail. The customers will be charged tariffs similar to international roaming and will show up on their monthly bill. Since only one aircraft is equipped to offer the service, there is no way to find out if you are going to be able to take advantage of it before you get on that very plane and discover the info brochure in the seat pocket or spot the “no mobile” light right next to the “no smoking” one. The setup approved by EASA is provided by the Swiss OnAir. The Geneva based IT company working mainly with airline carriers, has plans to expand the cell phone coverage service to the European and Asian markets.
Quantas Airways has been having similar tests in the land Down under in cooperation with another IT company, AeroMobile Ltd.
In the U.S., Boeing’s own Connexion (CBB) was discontinued in 2006, because the numbers from the sales didn’t add up. JetBlue is also having tests this month for limited messaging service using Wi-Fi system which is to be approved by the U.S. regulators.