Air France launches mobile calls during flight ahead of schedule
French airline Air France now allows passengers on board its A318 planes to make mobile phone calls in flight. The company revised its schedule for the launch of mobile services started allowing passengers to make cell phone calls from their own cell phones on Wednesday. Air France has been testing a system developed by OnAir since last December, though up to now only SMS and MMS were allowed. The "controlled" expansion to include voice connections was originally planned for June, but Emirates Airlines one-upped Air France by rolling out its own cell phone service with competitor AeroMobile.
The Air France planes travel between European cities and are equipped with a small base station that processes all cell phone connections. Passengers can make calls or communicate via SMS/MMS as soon as the plane has reached an altitude of 3000 meters. The airline says that up to 12 calls can be made at a time; there is apparently almost no limit on the number of text messages that can be sent. The passenger's mobile communications provider handles invoicing. In the OnAir system, connections to ground are made via Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband (SBB) satellite communications service.