In-Flight Phone Service Coming to Emirates Airline Next Year?

If you’re planning to fly to Dubai next year on an Emirates Airline flight, keep your eyes and ears peeled for details about a new on-flight mobile phone service offered by AeroMobile (a joint venture between communications vendor Arinc and Norway-based telecom service providers Telenor).

A report (;1267221105;fp;4194304;fpid;1)earlier this month noted an announcement from Emirates Airline regarding plans to deploy the mobile phone service on one of its Boeing 777 planes early in 2007, assuming it can get necessary approval.

On-board phone service hasn’t been that successful to date. Boeing previously tried to get  an Internet access service called Connexion off the ground, but phased it out in August after failing to find a buyer.

Connexion did make it onto some European and Asian flights, but no major carrier jumped on board.

Unlike Connexion, which used a combination of satellite transmission and WiFi, the AeroMobile service will beam signal to the ground using satellite systems from Inmarast, which are already installed on all Emirates planes, reports.

A similar service, OnAir, is being developed by European airplane manufacturer Airbus SAS, and air transport IT services provider SITA. According to, last year the British carrier BMI and TAP-Air signed on to offer OnAir’s voice and text messaging services for European flights—again, pending approval.

Apparently, European officials are interested in allowing the on-board mobile phone services. officials, meanwhile, are still reviewing safety concerns about the technology.

Specifically, notes, “Numerous experts are concerned about the possible risk of wireless devices interfering with cockpit and ground-based communication systems.”

Whether or not the technology poses a true security threat, perhaps a bigger concern is whether passengers will actually use it enough to make the service viable. If the ubiquity of cell phone use in our culture nowadays is any indication, I would bet that answer is a resounding “yes.”

That’s especially true since reports the services discussed here would bill usage for calls and text message to users’ regular phone bills, and rates would be comparable to international roaming rates—not cheap, but likely still attractive to passengers who already shell out extra bucks to stay in touch while traveling abroad.

Of course, using cell phones on a plane does pose a potential etiquette problem: in such a small space, would everyone chatting away drive passengers batty? I guess that would depend on how many people use the service, and how loud they talk. We’re already used to overhearing all types of conversations just about anywhere we go, so maybe it wouldn’t be that much of an adjustment.

What do you think—is in-flight Internet and phone service a good thing? A terrible idea?


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